Oh, yes. They are. Quite bad over the course of the season.
Still, I wondered. There have been a few epic second half meltdowns this year--Toronto, Chicago, et. al.--so it seemed obvious that the team was much better in the first half than the second this year. But sometimes such vivid examples tend to skewer one's view of reality.
Stuck in Bangkok Airport for a few hours with nothing I needed to do and zero ambition to make productive use of my time, I went through each game and compared the Pistons' first half performances and their second half performances (through 53 games). The results:
First an interesting tidbit--in 53 games have not had a single half out of a hundred and six in which each team scored the same number of points. I find that odd. Is that odd?
Second, the Pistons are a better--much better--first half team. By no means have they been great in the first half, but they do have a "winning first half record". Thus far, the Pistons have gone to the break ahead 29 times and behind 24 times. And in those 53 first halves, they have outscored their opponents by a whopping 25 points. Ten times this year, the Pistons have gone into the locker room up by double digits. (They won seven of those games.)
Thirdly, first half leads don't necessarily translate into victories. The Pistons are a mere 15-14 when they lead after two quarters. But man, leading at the half at least does not translate into a semi-automatic loss. The Pistons are a nigh-hopeless 5-19 when down at intermission. That's got to be substantially worse than average.
Fourthly, the Pistons have been a pretty awful second half team, just as our instincts have suggested. Thus far, they have "won" only 20 of their second halves, while losing the other 33. But it's not merely a matter of falling short. As our ugly memories of the collapses against the Raptors and Bulls suggest, the Piston's have had some dreadful, dreadful turns coming back after the break. Only five times have the Pistons outscored the opponent by double digits in the second. Opponents have outscored the Pistons by ten or more NINETEEN times this season. On these ignoble occasions, the Pistons are 1-18 for the season, (the only win coming back in early November in overtime against the Clippers). For the season, the Pistons have been outscored by 252 points in the second half, or close to five points a game.
Fifthly, when the Pistons happen to win the second half, they have a contender's record, going 14-6 in those games. But, of course, there are two problems with this optimistic assessment; 1) This has only happened about 35% of the time this year; and 2) a "losing" second half is even more deadly than a first half loss. The Pistons are 5-28 this year when being outscored after the break.
Sixthly, I looked at how often the Pistons played a "complete" game, (either completely awesome or completely awful), and what their record has been in the Tale of Two Halves games. The great news--the Pistons are undefeated (10-0) in games in which they've won both halves! The terrible news--they are 0-14 in the games in which they've lost both halves. The note quite as bad news, but still pretty bad news--if the Pistons don't dominate both halves, they are likely to go home a pack of sad (red) pandas; they are 9-20 when winning only one half.
Finally, things have been a bit rosier since the team's recent (8-7) "surge". The Pistons have "only" been outscored by double digits four times in the second half, and five times overall. (And aside from the fourth quarter stomping against the Knicks a few weeks ago, all of these poor halves have closed with ten or eleven point deficits. Thus, 14 of the Pistons' worst halves of the year occurred in the first 38 games. I guess that's something.)
On the return trip to Burma, I will bring a book.