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Pistons vs. Cleveland series analysis: Detroit's small-ball lineups were effective

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For over six minutes in Game 4, the Detroit Pistons did not have either Aron Baynes or Andre Drummond on the floor.

Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

The NBA, as does life, goes through trends. Right now, small ball lineups are trendy in the NBA. That proves to be a problem for teams who have very talented big men who should not shoot outside of 10 feet. Partially due to "trust issues" with regard to free throws and partially due to the lineups the Cleveland Cavaliers put on the floor, the Detroit Pistons had to resort to small ball a few times in the series, including six minutes in the series sweep-clinching loss.

Let's take a look at the numbers and see how the Pistons fared.

Using the lineup data available at stats.nba.com, it shows that the Pistons used six different lineups without Andre Drummond or Aron Baynes on the floor for a total of 16 minutes throughout the series. The lineup used the most: Reggie Jackson, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Stanley Johnson, Tobias Harris and Marcus Morris for 10 minutes. That lineup was ridiculously good. They went 10-for-13 overall, 4-for-6 from three and committed no turnovers while dishing out six assists.

It was also their defense that helped keep the Pistons within striking distance. Stats.nba.com does not say who was on the floor for the opposing team during those lineups, so take that into consideration when weighing these Game 4 numbers during a six-minute stretch: 3-for-9 overall and 2-for-5 from deep. Both teams in that time grabbed three rebounds, none bigger unfortunately than the offensive rebound Kevin Love grabbed.

Overall, the Pistons small ball lineup did well. In the 16 minutes the Pistons played small ball over the course of the series, they were a +8 going 16-for-26 overall, 4-for-9 from three while grabbing nine rebounds, dishing out 10 assists and only turning the ball over once. The stat that looks the worst during that time, and it may have to do with LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Love being on the Cavaliers, is the Pistons committed five fouls for six free throws whereas they only drew two fouls for two free throws. The Cavaliers were 11-for-27 overall, and 4-for-10 from deep, but also grabbed 13 rebounds.

None of this is to say that the Pistons should go small ball often. There is a LARGE asterisk next the numbers in regards to sample size. But it at least allows the Pistons hope for when the Pistons may need to sit Drummond or Baynes as other teams go small.

The Pistons starting lineup was still very good in the series, better even than they were in the regular season. The starting lineup of Jackson, Caldwell-Pope, Morris, Harris and Drummond had a shooting line of 49.3 / 40 / 73 in the series against Cleveland. In 25 games to close out the regular season, they had a shooting line of 47.5 / 36.3 / 65.0.

They played better against a very talented team on a national scale, and that's encouraging.