The Detroit Pistons are licking their wounds after a somewhat embarrassing and extremely frustrating game against the Indiana Pacers. The game exposed just about every flaw the Pistons have - inefficient shooting from new additions Brandon Jennings and Josh Smith, lack of 3-point shooting, not enough touches for Greg Monroe, etc.
The good news, if there is any, is that the Pacers have been making teams look foolish all season and remain the NBA's lone unbeaten team. And that means Detroit has a chance to rebound and right some wrongs tonight against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The Thunder are 3-1 but two of those wins came against Utah and Phoenix. It's too early to say whether OKC is still among the elite teams in the Western Conference or if, as the early returns indicate, they are a good and not great team. Regardless, any team with the second-best player in the NBA and arguably a top-10 player as his wingman - that would be Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, respectively - remains dangerous.
As for what to expect from the Pistons? Hopefully they've spent their practice time focusing on things they should and should not do. Such as: Do: Give Greg Monroe the most offensive touches Do Not: Let bad shooters toss up 3-pointers early in the shot clock. Do: Utilize the team's superior passing to create easy opportunities down low. Do Not: Be careless with the ball and turn it over 20+ times a game. Do: Play Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Luigi Datome. Do not: Allow Smith to shoot the ball 20 times a game.
The bird's-eye view of the team's game plan appears to be solid: Try and do most of your damage from the paint (No. 1 in NBA), use your defense to create offense ( No. 7 in fastbreak points) and otherwise shoot 3-pointers (No. 29 in midrange attempts). The problems are straightforward but profound:
- The wrong guys are shooting outside the paint
- The guys in the paint aren't shooting enough
- Still haven't established consistent 3-point threats
- WAY too many turnovers
These problems, along with defensive issues I'll save for another day, are going to sort themselves out (I hope), but it is going to be a frustrating process.
Keys to the Game
Take care of the ball: Of all the team's issues so far this is probably the easiest for the team to address. And it starts with Brandon Jennings. While Jennings deservedly gets a bad rap for his shot selection, he doesn't give enough credit for thus far doing some essential point guard duties - taking care of the ball and getting others involved. Last season, Jennings had a turnover rate of just 9.6 percent, one of the best marks in the league.
Jennings needs more ownership of the offense, and more importantly, the team shouldn't just pass it to Smith on the perimeter and ask him to go to work. The makeup of this team dictates it should be running a lot more pick-and-rolls, and Jennings is a quality PNR player. More of that, please.
Beware of Jeremy Lamb: Lamb has been sneaky good on offense for the Thunder in this young season and he's not afraid to shoot it - he's taken the third-most shots behind Durant and Westbrook. If the Pistons don't lock down their rotations and focus so much on limiting the aforementioned big two, Lamb could have a very big day.
Play big: The Pistons should give ample playing time to Smith, Andre Drummond, Monroe and Datome. Basically, do anything that encourages the Thunder to give more minutes to the black hole that is Kendrick Perkins. While he's starting to lose minutes to young Steven Adams, Perk still gets way more minutes than he should. And that practice should be encouraged.
Questions of the Game
How many 3-point attempts for the team tonight? How many actually go in this time?