Stan Van Gundy has been known to favor the 3-pointer in his coaching career. Van Gundy hasn't changed, as was evident this off-season with his free agent signings. Bringing in D.J. Augustin, Caron Butler, Jodie Meeks and Cartier Martier, Van Gundy wanted to take the 2013-14 NBA season's 29th worst three-point shooting team and turn that around. It may finally appear to be taking form, but it isn't only coming from Van Gundy's signings.
A three-pointer is good for two main reasons: 1) it opens up the middle for the big men and 2) basic math (3 > 2). Before Van Gundy joined the team, Detroit was already froth in big men with Josh Smith, Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond. However, last year the Pistons had a very hard time shooting from deep. On the season the Pistons shot 32 percent from the three-point line. That is far less than the league average of 36 percent and worlds apart from the league leading San Antonio Spurs at 40 percent.
Augustin, Butler, Meeks and Martin all shot around .400 last year. Bringing them in was to improve the Pistons three-point shooting so that Smith, Monroe and Drummond would have more room to abuse the paint. Through the first three games, that was not the case. Martin and Meeks have been out with injuries. Augustin went 3-for-13 in the first three games and Butler went 4-for-12. Last year's top three-point shooter (based on sample size), Kyle Singler, was also only 4-for-11. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who had been showing his shooting prowess in last year's season finale, this year's summer league and to begin the preseason, was not showing it in the season thus far either, going 2-for-16 from long distance in the first three games.
Things seemed to change in the game against New York where the team shot 11-for-23 from three. Well, the Pistons shot the same 11-for-23 against the Milwaukee Bucks Friday in their 98-95 win. As a matter of fact, if it wasn't for the three-pointers, the Pistons probably would have lost the game.
These Pistons are not good from the charity stripe, and it is not all Andre's fault. For the third straight game, the Pistons shot more free throws than their opponent. However, they made fewer free throws than the Bucks did, 13 to 18, respectively. Both teams, overall, shot pretty much the same. The Pistons were 37-for-75 and the Bucks were 36-77. If all of the shots for the Pistons and Bucks were not three pointers, the Bucks would have won the game 90-87. But because the Bucks only went 5-for-20 from three, six fewer than the Pistons, the Pistons won by three.
But the great thing is that the hot three-point shooting didn't come just from the guys Van Gundy brought in during the off-season. Augustin only went 1-for-5 from deep. Butler was 3-for-4. But it was Jennings (4-for-6) and KCP (3-for-5) who also showed up and hit triples when they were really needed.
The Pistons took the lead very early in the game and built it up to 13 points at one point in the first quarter. However, them pesky Bucks kept trying to climb back. With just 2:40 left in the second quarter, the Bucks had trimmed the lead back down to one. This is when Butler hit a three to spark a rally which allowed the Pistons to end the half up by seven.
With just under four minutes to play in the third quarter, the Bucks had come all the way back to tie the game and would eventually take the lead at 68-63. On the next two positions, Jennings got his swag back by hitting two consecutive threes to briefly give the Pistons the lead back. Jennings would then hit another three with only three seconds left in the quarter to let the Pistons end the third quarter up by four.
Nothing changed in the fourth quarter. The Bucks tried stampeding back and had pulled within two when Butler hit a three pointer which sparked a 7-1 run. And as the Bucks came back to pull it within three again with less than three to go in the game, KCP hit another triple to allow the Pistons enough space to finish out the game exchanging baskets and free throws the rest of the way. The Pistons would win...by three.
After the first three games, the Pistons were near the bottom of the league in three-point percentage. After the last two games, they are now 19th in the league and only .018 from being right at league average. Their 48 percent over the last two games would lead the league. Let's hope this shooting continues.
Note: If you've been following along with the Piston pump-up challenge, it's becoming quite a challenge. The only stat I've been able to keep up with has been Josh Smith's jumpers outside 10 feet. Through 5 games there have been 38 such shots, good for 950 squats. How them thighs feeling? And for good measure, Josh was 0-2 from deep last night. Jennings shot under .350 against the Knicks, so there's a mile to run as well (did mine today, 1.6 to be exact). I also heard the Bucks announcers make mention of Josh's shot selection, so that's another two laps around your block. I've seen at least one Despondent Stan, so that's a 15 second plank. Also, throw in 20 crunches because I'm sure FSD (which I don't always get) has shown the Palace at least once. Can anyone tell me how many times George has said "Count that baby and a foul?"