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Pistons offense still a work in progress

Despite four straight games of 100+ points (before Monday night's loss), the Pistons offense still has a ways to go.

Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

The Detroit Pistons were on their longest win streak of this young season (4). The Pistons scored more than 100 points in each of the wins, averaging 114 points per contest. Only five times in the prior 17 games did they score 100 or more points, each of those wins. However, do not take that sudden surge in offense as a sign of things to come, as evidenced on Monday night against Charlotte.

Stan Van Gundy made the comment after the Pistons 111-91 wallop of the Los Angeles Lakers that he knows the offense still has a ways to go.

"It’s too early to tell," he (Van Gundy) said. "We didn’t play great defensive teams in this stretch. We played teams that could really score – Houston, Phoenix. But if you look at the defensive ratings of those four teams, they’re not great at that end. I think we’re improving, but I think four games is probably a little too early to call it a trend."

Prior to November 30th's home game against the Houston Rockets, the Rockets were giving up 107.5 points per game. That was third worst in the league at that time. They were second worst in opponent field-goal percentage, 21st in opponent three-point percentage, and 24th in opponent offensive rebounds. The best defensive measure they had was forcing 15.9 turnovers per game, but the Pistons only had 11 in the game.

When the Phoenix Suns came to town, they weren't much better. They allowed 104.6 points per game up to that point, fifth worst in the league. They were third worst in opponent field-goal percentage and sixth worst in opponent three-point percentage. After shooting over 50-percent against the Rockets, for the first time in this short season, the Pistons shot over 50-percent again. The Pistons also shot 44.4-percent from distance, their second best percentage for the season.

Two days later, the young Milwaukee Bucks came to town. For a team that won 26 more games last year than the year prior, thanks to a vastly improved defense, that has not been their forte this year. They came to The Palace allowing 102.8 points per game (23rd in the league), were 22nd in opponent field-goal percentage, 26th in opponent three-point percentage, and second to last in opponent offensive rebounds. Like the Rockets, the Bucks' best defensive metric was forcing turnovers (16.1 per game). Though the Pistons did not shoot the ball that well (41.5/30.4/69.2), they only coughed the ball up nine times.

And then you have the Los Angeles Lakers. Oh my gosh the Lakers! I'll let Keith Langlois say it best.

The Lakers came in allowing 104.2 points per game (26th in the league), 21st in opponent field-goal percentage, 23rd in opponent offensive rebounds, and 26th in forcing turnovers. The Pistons would have 16 turnovers on the game, nine of which came from the bench.

Shoot, if you were to look at the last four games over every team in the NBA, before Monday's contest, the Pistons are averaging the most points per game (yes, more than the Golden State Warriors) while having the fourth best shooting percentage and ninth best three-point percentage. Sadly, during the same time, the Pistons are sporting the second worst free throw percentage. You also have to remember, the Pistons had five more minutes of play than 21 other teams in the NBA. (Yes, somehow, nine teams averaged 49.3 minute per game over the last four, which means some team played overtime and another team had already left. Thank you

The key to the Pistons wins have been their defense and rebounding. Not only has their defense been holding teams to low(ish) shooting percentages, but the Pistons are second (on the season) in number of field goal attempts per game. This is rather surprising given that the Pistons have played the most back-to-back games thus far, played the second most games, and should be tired.

However, the Pistons do not have time to get tired. Sunday's game was the first of five-in-seven which starts and ends with a back-to-back. The Charlotte Hornets went into Monday's game 11th in opponent points per game and fifth best in opponent offensive rebounds. The Memphis Grizzlies are second best in opponent offensive rebounding and third in opponent turnovers. The Indiana Pacers are 10th in opponent points per game, 11th in opponent field-goal percentage, 10th in opponent three-point percentage, and second in opponent turnovers. Thank goodness(?) there is a Philadelphia 76ers game thrown in there, especially the night before the Pacers game.

So, although the Pistons offense has looked better (but not great), it has come against pretty weak defenses. Not a great start dispelling that on Monday night. The next three games should really show where the Pistons offense is right now. If the Pistons get the chance to rest their starters like they did against the Lakers on Sunday, that would bode well for the offense as well as up their chances for wins.