The Pistons have won just three of their last 13 games, and there are certainly plenty of reasons for the downward spiral. But perhaps most crippling has been their fourth quarter performance.
Three weeks ago, Mo Cheeks couldn't explain their fourth quarter failings. Obviously he still can't. I can.
They've firmly laid claim to the worst fourth quarter team in the league, trialing opponents by an average of 3 points for the frame compared to the second worst Knicks average of 2.2 (numbers from NBA Stats page). They average the second lowest number of points in the fourth (22.5 points), to complement their second worst field goal percentage (39.8 percent) and lowest three point percentage (25.3 percent). They're also sixth in turnovers (3.9 per game).
On the flip side, they're allowing ninth most points (25.4 points) and the worst field goal percentage (47.4 percent). While the Pistons out-rebound opponents by an average of 2.3 per game, they're getting beat on the boards in the fourth by an average of 1.4 per game. They dominate the rest of the league in offensive rebounds, but are mediocre in the final frame.
So what's happening in the fourth quarter that is different in the rest of the game?
There are several glaring differences, starting with minute distribution. Fifth on the team in minutes throughout the game (6.45 per quarter (keep in mind these per quarter numbers include the fourth)), Rodney Stuckey leads the team in minutes per game in the fourth (9.2 minutes). Meanwhile, Greg Monroe fourth on the team in minutes (8 minutes) but seventh on the team in fourth quarter minutes per game (6.9 minutes) - notably sitting out the entire fourth quarter in latest fourth quarter collapse against the New Orleans pelicans. Judging by recent games, the number seems even further on the decline.
Shot allocation also goes to hell in the final frame, as the team's most efficient scorers get the fewest shots. Andre Drummond and Kyle Singler lead the rotation players in true shooting percentage, but are tenth and eighth on the team in shot attempts in the fourth respectively. Stuckey and his 54 percent true shooting is rightfully second on the team in attempts in the fourth, but he hasn't delivered. In the fourth, his true shooting drops to 47.5 percent.
Mo Cheeks apparently chuckled when asked about Greg Monroe's lack of touches in the fourth quarter after his team's collapse against league-worst Milwaukee Bucks. He has an odd sense of humor. While Monroe averages the fourth most shot attempts per game for the team (2.8 attempts per quarter), in the fourth quarter he's 11th on the team (1.4 attempts). Ahem. ELEVENTH. Despite the fact that he's one of the few players who at least somewhat retain their efficiency in the fourth (53 percent fourth quarter true shooting, compared to 54 percent overall).
LeBron James has the fifth highest usage percentage in the league, just a notch under 30 percent. If I gave you an over/under of Brandon Jennings' fourth quarter usage at 30 percent, which would you take? A usage rate of 30.9 percent and leading the team in shot attempts despite a true shooting at 46.4 percent, Mo Cheeks has chosen to give Jennings the team with the game on the line and it's failed. His assist average is also lowest in the fourth. It's funny, Brandon Jennings only leads the team in shot attempts in one period. Well, sardonically funny.
The second half is death for ball movement for the Pistons. In the first half, the Pistons are toward the top half in the league in assists, averaging around 6 per quarter. But their numbers make a steady decline throughout the game. By the fourth quarter they're averaging half of the number of assists distributed earlier in the game, and dead last in the league as a team.
The solution is simple. Play Greg Monroe. Feed him. And tell Jennings to pass.