The Detroit Pistons have played better lately, and big reason why is something that Pistons fans have been screaming about for years: picking up the pace.
It's a misnomer that slower = better in the NBA. While most every NBA coach pays lip service to speeding things up in training camp, the empty rhetoric usually gives way to things like "managing the game," "setting the tone," or "making them play our style of basketball."
What it really means is you probably have a bad basketball team and as the coach you are trying to manufacture quality possessions by walking the ball up the floor, limiting mistakes and running set plays. Sure, in the Pistons case it might have made sense in the days of Billups, Sheed and Hamilton to play slow but this is the team of Brandon Knight, Rodney Stuckey and Jonas Jerebko. They are fast, undersized and young. They could run all day if you'd let them.
But this season the Pistons have been the same boring, plodding story. Or so I thought. Keith Langlois had a recent article attributing the Pistons recent surge to what coach Lawrence Frank said were improvements in "18 different areas." But one of the biggest improvements, Langlois writes, has been the team's pace:
For the first half of the NBA season, it was tough to see the results of Frank's daily admonitions to pick up the pace in the statistics. The Pistons still ranked 30th in the NBA in pace through their first 24 games and 18th in fast-break points. Now? Since starting the season 4-20, the Pistons are fifth in the NBA in fast-break points and 13th in pace - the number of possessions a team manages over a 48-minute game.
And while the emphasis comes from Frank, the data comes from the Pistons newest analytic specialist:
The numbers, Frank said, came from assistant coach Charles Klask, whose specialty is statistical analysis.
In a season with many losses, I will take as many small victories as I can. And I will get excited any time the PIstons mention Klask.