Why are the Pistons so much better on the road?

Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Heading into tonight's road game against the Orlando Magic, previewer extraordinaire Shinons* pointed out that the Pistons have defied the usual NBA trends by performing significantly better on the road, with a road record of 8-6 (yay!) versus a home record of 6-10 (ugh). This sort of disparity virtually cries out for an explanation.

So I took a look at some numbers to try and figure out what accounts for our road record being better than our home record. It could be just random noise, of course, but since it's so unusual in the NBA to have a better record on the road I figured it was worth a look.

We have played a slightly tougher home schedule than road schedule (our home opponents have an average of 14.7 wins, while our road opponents have 13.9). But the point differential is pretty stark - on the road we are outscoring opponents by 2.0 ppg, at home they are outscoring us by 3.4 ppg, for a total swing of 5.4 ppg. It's unlikely that the minor difference in schedule strength accounts for a difference this serious.

While our total rebounding shows no difference in home/road splits, we are getting 2 fewer offensive boards per game at home - possibly a big deal, since offensive rebounding is this team's #1 strength. We are also committing 1.8 more turnovers per game at home and committing 1.6 more fouls per game. Not sure if these numbers mean anything.

The team numbers aren't especially revealing, so I looked at the individual stats for our top 7 guys to see if anyone is playing noticeably worse at home. I looked only at offensive numbers, since it seems hard to tell much about defense from looking at individual stats. I found two culprits in particular: Brandon Jennings, whose ORtg (points per possession) is an alarming 13 points lower at home, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, whose ORtg is 10 points worse at home. (By contrast, Rodney Stuckey has been a stud in front of the home crowd, with a home ORtg 10 points higher than his road numbers.)

It probably comes as no surprise that Jennings, as the point guard, has a strong impact on the team's results from night to night. His shooting at home has been much worse (3P% of 30% as compared to 41.9% on the road). Interestingly, even his free throw percentage has been much worse at home (68% as compared to 85%). The latter number could just be small sample size - we're only talking about 122 total free throws, after all) - but since it fits the pattern of significantly weaker home performances you have to wonder if there's some issue with how he plays at home. I would note, for the record, that Jennings is actually taking fewer shots at home than he is taking on the road, so it doesn't appear to be an issue of chucking too many shots so much as missing the ones he takes.)

As a final point, I decided to look at our players' individual splits in wins vs. losses, to see if there's a correlation between how specific players perform and how the team does. It turned out our key big men, Monroe and Drummond, put out pretty much the same strong numbers in wins as they do in losses. There are three guys in particular, though, whose numbers look significantly better when the team wins: Jennings (ORtg of 114 in wins vs. 101 in losses), KCP (112 in wins vs. a terrible 88 in losses), and Kyle Singler (an unbelievable 131 in wins vs. a still respectable 113 in losses). What do these three guys have in common? Obviously, they are our three main outside shooters.

Maybe it's not a dramatic conclusion to say "as our outside shooters go, so go the results" but sometimes you just gotta go where the numbers take you. We knew coming into the year that our front line was a real source of strength and that the lack of a consistent outside shooter was a big concern, and that's how it has played out. We might be even worse off if Singler weren't putting up such sick numbers. To step it up to the next level, either our current backcourt needs to get better at hitting its shots (KCP, in particular, has the most potential for growth, which is the nice way of saying he isn't there yet) or we need to add another piece. The volatility in our outside shooting sure looks like the major factor impacting the team's results from night to night.

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