Ok, so maybe this article should be "Examining the Piston cliff", but for some reason "Avoiding the Piston cliff" had a familiar ring to it. I don't know.
Anyways, as was accurately tweeted by Mr. Vincent Goodwill...
11 games with double-digit leads ending in losses. Five of them go your way, you're in the 8th spot, #Pistons fans. Gotta be sickening
To a point, I do agree that it is sickening. Some of those leads were against good teams and we would likely be in a better position to chase the playoffs right now had we won some of them. But I honestly need to (lifts glasses higher on bridge of nose) look at who did or didn't do what during those leads to see if it is really that sickening. Some argue that since the players built the lead, it's their fault they lost it. Others have suggested that most of the blame lies on the coach. (And I'll state this now, I don't have League Pass to go back and see any of the plays to see if they were bad decisions, sloppy plays, etc. Wish I did.) Well, let's take a look.
Here's the games we've blown double-digit leads in:
|Opponent||Final Score||Largest Piston Lead||When Lead Was Had||Score During Lead||Lead Gone At||Score When Lead Gone||Home/Away|
|Houston Rockets||105-96||11||11:07 Left in 4Q||83-72||7:39 Left in 4Q||85-85||Home|
|Phoenix Suns||92-89||11||8:11 Left in 2Q||39-28||2:11 Left in 2Q||46-46||Away|
|Oklahoma City Thunder||92-90||13||5:13 Left in 3Q||64-51||8:55 Left in 4Q||73-73||Home|
|Orlando Magic 1||110-106||13||3:56 Left in 3Q||71-58||8:15 Left in 4Q||85-85||Home|
|Orlando Magic 2||90-74||10||3:56 Left in 1Q||19-9||9:18 Left in 2Q||29-29||Away|
|Dallas Mavericks||92-77||11||3:18 Left in 2Q||44-33||4:48 Left in 3Q||55-57||Away|
|Chicago Bulls 1||108-104||17||4:30 Left in 2Q||53-36||6:52 Left in 3Q||64-64||Home|
|Denver Nuggets||101-94||17||5:22 Left in 1Q||21-4||3:31 Left in 2Q||39-39||Home|
|Charlotte Bobcats||108-101||13||4:48 Left in 2Q||58-45||11:37 Left in 3Q||61-60||Home|
|Utah Jazz||90-87||15||6:48 Left in 2Q||39-24||4:01 Left in 3Q||56-56||Home|
|Chicago Bulls 2||85-82||17||10:22 Left in 3Q||55-38||7:52 Left in 4Q||71-71||Away|
I'm going to explore our first double-digit lead loss compared to our most recent double-digit lead loss. I'm doing this because, well, you can go read the play by plays in that time span if you want (or MFMP, can you do Synergy stuff on a time range?). I'll then try and give account of what I've seen when watching the games rather than just what the stat sheet says.
So in the matter of 3:28, Houston went on a 13-2 run. The players on the floor for the Pistons at the time the lead was had: Rodney Stuckey (finished the game), Jonas Jerebko, Will Bynum, Kyle Singler and Andre Drummond. Stuckey came in for Kim English at the start of the fourth quarter; English was a +5 in his time leading up to the end of the fourth quarter. In that span of 3:28:
- Andre Drummond had a violation and a loose ball foul.
- Jerebko missed a 26 ft 3-pointer.
- Will Bynum has a turnover that leads to a dunk.
- Brandon Knight enters for Bynum with the score 83-77 (finished the game). Misses a 16 and 18 foot jumper during the time with the lead.
- The only points scored are off of Rodney Stuckey free throws.
- Greg Monroe enters the game for Drummond with the score 85-80 (finished the game). Ends up committing a turnover which eventually leads (after a missed defensive rebound) to a layup.
- Harden makes one and Deflino makes two 3-pointers.
So the Pistons shot 0-3, committed two turnovers that both lead to points, and couldn't defend the three in that time. To me, subbing Knight in for Bynum after the turnover was fine, but we all know Brandon was having an off night. Subbing Greg in for Andre (at the time) seemed fine as well. I believe at the time we had one of the worst Opponent 3P% defenses in the league. Jerebko ended up being -15 in his time in the fourth quarter, Stuckey -18, Singler -9, Drummond -4, Bynum -4, English -2, Prince -9, Monroe -14 and Knight -15. The only player that didn't have a negative +/-...Maxiell, because he didn't play in the fourth. To end the third, English was on a +5 streak, Jerebko, Singler and Drummond on +1 streaks, and Bynum was neutral. After the lead was lost, the Pistons went 5-11, committed 4 shooting fouls (Houston made 6-7 free throws), Houston made 2 3-pointers to 0 for the Pistons, made 1-3 free throws, and had 2 more turnovers. And I'm honestly not sure who's to blame for this one. The starters were the ones who built the lead (over the end of the second quarter and beginning of the third quarter), the backups maintained it through the third but started losing it in the end, but the starters couldn't even pull anything back. I don't think it would have mattered what Frank did, everyone had a bad fourth quarter.
This lead (though not the full magnitude of it) lasted for over a quarter. In that time though, the Bulls went on a 33-16 run. The players on the floor at the time of the lead were the starters: Knight, Maxiell, Monroe, Prince and Singler. Just more than half of the lead was build up in the first half, and the other 8 points was on an 8-0 run to start the second half. In the 10 minutes left in the third period, the Bulls took 6 points off of that lead. And then all hell broke lose in the first 4 minutes of the fourth quarter (Monroe, Singler, Drummond, Stuckey and Bynum were on the floor):
- The only points scored by the Pistons in those 4 minutes was a layup by Singler and a Greg Monroe free throw.
- The only missed shot by the bulls was a Noah free throw. Otherwise, they shot 5-5 (one being a 3-pointer) and made 3 free throws
- The only person subbed during these 4 minutes was Brandon Knight in for Bynum when the score was 71-69.
- Bynum and Monroe each had a turnover.
- Taj Gibson blocked shots by Stuckey and Drummond.
- The Pistons took a full timeout at 70-66 (9:25 left in the 4Q). After the timeout is when Monroe had his turnover which lead to a Robinson 3-pointer.
- Stuckey and Bynum missed shots within 5 feet.
- Greg Monroe's missed shot, get this SOL (teasing), was a 16 footer.
Personally, I think after the Bulls started the quarter on a 9-2 run, Frank should have subbed someone out at that Full Timeout, but he didn't. Now, this game did come down to pretty much the last play, and we can all agree to disagree that there could (or couldn't have) been a different outcome should Drummond have been in to end the game. However, we'll never know, and honestly, I don't think it should have come down to that play. Whether Stuckey should have fouled Belinelli harder so he didn't make the layup, the lack of defense on the missed shot by Belinelli, the choices of who shot the threes (and who was on the floor to shoot the threes) at the end of the game, etc.
So of the 11 double-digit leads that ended up being losses, 4 of them were on the road (3 of those against sub .500 teams). Six of the games were against teams likely to be in the playoffs, two of them in our own division. Three games featured a lead of 11, three games featured a lead of 13, and three games featured a lead of 17. Four of the games we had the lead into the fourth quarter, eight of them into the third quarter or later. Only in two of the games did we get our largest lead in the first quarter. The average time it took for the other team to overtake our lead was 9:08. One thing that I do find rather encouraging (and at the same time defeating) is that other than the game against Charlotte (5:11), the Pistons maintained the lead for no less than 9:30 in the last 6 of those games, the last two both being 14:30 or better. When I first looked at those numbers, I thought that maybe this means progress in learning how to close out games. However, the lead was built up in the second quarter in 4 of those last 5 games, once each in the first and third quarter. However, being able to maintain a lead is a key component to a winning team.
Unfortunately, I don't think my analysis gives enough information to determine whether or not these losses are more on the players or on the coach. And even if I had provided in depth analysis (someone else, you're more than welcome to finish it off) for each of the games, we could probably still come to a draw. I will say, to the eye, it does appear that in these downfalls, I see a lot of hero ball. Yes, Bynum is probably the main culprit, but I see many on the team trying to take bailout shots. Shots that don't normally come within the rhythm of their game or the flow of the offense. I think at these times, the players get away from the playbook and maybe even the plays that got them the lead (should those plays not necessarily be in the playbook). For instance, it seems at these times we don't go for easy buckets, such as those that are lobs to Dre. Maybe, just maybe, that has something to do with Stuckey's benching (just throwing shit out there really). But if they are getting away from the playbook and or the plays that got them to that lead, then it's on the coach to get them back in the right mindset rather than hero ball. But if they are executing the playbook and just not getting it, maybe the rotation needs to change. And if both the starters and the backups are to blame for the lost lead, maybe it's the opponent and/or our talent (or lack thereof).
I don't think there is any one definitive answer as to why we build these leads and then lose them. It is sickening to lose double digit leads, especially as quick as we did against Charlotte. But I do find it encouraging that we're holding the leads longer. To me, it shows chemistry and gained experience. In those last 6 games I mentioned, four were playoff teams, so we're holding the lead better against quality opponents. So, what do you all think? Coach? Players? Both? Joe D?
Update - Comparison (hours later)
In a previous article, stevenyc made a comment in a discussion saying:
I'd like to see how we compare to other teams
- Charlotte Bobcats – They lead by double-digits at one point 4 out of their 33 losses (12.12%).
- Miami Heat – They lead by double-digits at one point 2 out of their 13 losses (15.38%).
- Atlanta Hawks – They lead by double-digits at one point 2 out of their 19 losses (10.53%).
- Washington Wizards – They lead by double-digits at one point 6 out of their 32 losses (18.75%)
- Boston Celtics – They lead by double-digits at one point 5 out of their 23 losses (21.74%).
- Milwaukee Bucks – They lead by double-digits at one point 5 out of their 19 losses (26.32%).
- Los Angeles Clippers – They lead by double-digits at one point 1 out of their 13 losses (7.69%).
- Oklahoma City Thunder – They lead by double-digits at one point 1 out of their 11 losses (9.09%).
- Detroit Pistons – They lead by double-digits at one point
1112 out of their 2728 losses ( 40.74%42.86%).
Without having done the other teams, I can almost bet that Detroit has blown the most double-digit leads. I don’t have the time, nor patience, to do what I believe would be a better representation. I would like to see what the percentage of wins vs. losses for a team when they reach a double-digit lead. I’m pretty sure, you’d see that more often than not, when a team has a double-digit lead, it leads to a win. But again, I don’t have the time to actually pull this data. So no, a double-digit lead does not guarantee a win, nor mean the team was the better team on that night, but the Pistons have been horrifically bad at blowing double-digit leads. The average of the 8 other teams I provided is 15.95% where their losses are from blowing double-digit leads. If we had roughly the same percentage, we would have only had 4-5 losses from blown double-digit leads, meaning we’d currently be in 7th or 8th place in the Eastern Conference.
I almost included the Miami game in the stats as we did have a lead of 9, but I thought that might mean I should include all other 9 digits leads lost. But for reference, that lead was gained early and lost early.