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Pistons vs. Cavaliers NBA playoffs analysis: Detroit still losing games in the third quarter

Only two games into the series, one thing is evident: The Pistons can stay with the Cavaliers through the first half. That second half is a different story, though.

Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

We're only two games into the playoffs, but one of the Pistons' regular season "quirks" has translated to the playoffs. The Pistons led by five points after the first half in Game 1 and were only down two at the half in Game 2. But as was the case in the regular season, the Pistons struggle mightily coming out of the locker room, and it's cost them games.

The Pistons are getting a lot of attention, as they're making the Cavaliers fight for this series. Even if the Pistons get swept, they will not be easy games for the Cavaliers to take. Through the first half of each game, the Pistons have competed with the Cavaliers, staying close or even leading. It's what they did in their regular season match ups, too. And while LeBron may have flipped his playoff switch, or we're going up against a team with more playoff experience, this is something the Pistons have struggled with throughout the season.

If you look at the Pistons quarter-by-quarter plus/minus numbers, it is rather revealing. Over the course of the season, the Pistons are plus-11 in the first quarter and plus-8 in the second quarter. The second half is a completely different story. The Pistons are minus-83 in the third quarter. But thank goodness the games are four quarters (or more). In the fourth quarter, they are a whopping plus-114. Throw in overtime periods and they are plus-124.

The third quarter was by far the worst quarter for the Pistons this year, and it still seems to be the case. Here are the numbers from the regular season and playoffs.

PTS/G 1st Quarter 2nd Quarter 3rd Quarter 4th Quarter
Pistons Regular Season 25.2 25.8 24.0 25.9
Pistons Regular Season Home 26.0 27.4 24.1 26.6
Pistons Regular Season Road 24.4 24.1 24.0 25.1
Pistons Playoffs 26.5 29.0 17.5 22.5
Opponent Regular Season 24.9 26.0 25.1 24.4
Opponent Playoffs 25.0 29.0 25.0 27.5

The difference from the regular season to the playoffs is that the Pistons are playing the No. 1 seed Cleveland Cavaliers. The Pistons' clutchiness, which was more so domination of the fourth quarter, will likely not save them against this Cavaliers team. In Game 1, the Pistons only lost the third quarter by three points. That allowed them to stay close in the fourth quarter, in which they were outscored by seven, in a game they lost by only five. In Game 2, the Pistons lost the third quarter by 12 points (even after scoring the first seven points of the half), making their deficit going into the fourth quarter 14. They stuck close in the fourth, only losing it by three, but still leaving them with a 17-point loss.

As can be seen in the table, the Pistons defense has not floundered much. And there's not much you can do when a team goes 20-for-38 from the three-point line. But one has to question what could be changed in the third quarter to not get beat so badly. Start the bench and bring the starters in a few minutes later?

What are your thoughts DBB? Does Stan Van Gundy need to work on his halftime adjustments? Is Stan Van Gundy being out coached? Where do you think it lies?