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The Close Out: A week to be proud of for Pistons, fans

A home win against Minnesota was capped off by wins on the road in Los Angeles and Oakland.

NBA: Detroit Pistons at Golden State Warriors Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

It’s going to be hard to find a tougher four-game stretch within a calendar week than the one the Pistons just wrapped up. Three up and only one down was a pipe dream turned reality. This is a team people can get behind. Good for them.

Approved Action

Exploring certain sets or play types used often by the Pistons along with the variations and assorted outcomes.

We all know the high pick-and-roll, so here are some wrinkles used in week two:

  1. Instead of rolling to the rim, Andre Drummond sets an immediate screen for Avery Bradley for a clearly designed three-point attempt.
  2. Bradley sets a dummy screen for Jackson, causing J.J. Redick to switch, leading to the real PNR between Reggie Jackson and Andre.
  3. Stanley Johnson chips Karl-Anthony Towns, giving Dre a slight head start. The goal of the chip (or ram screen) is to force the defensive big to play catch-up throughout the entire play (the Chris Paul Clippers loved to initiate offense with this).

Smart players keep the defense honest such as below:

Last week we were introduced to this set, and the Pistons continued its use in week two. Above, the first clip is of its traditional use, followed by Reggie Jackson aggressively taking what the defense gives him. As Jeff Teague prepares to defend the flip to Tobias Harris, Jackson’s left-to-right crossover finds a huge gap. All that’s missing is the exclamation point finish.

Here’s the same look, but without Tobias Harris:

Reggie Bullock joined Stan Van Gundy’s still-trying-to-figure-out-my-rotation this week: He’s competing with Avery Bradley, Luke Kennard, Stanley Johnson and Langston Galloway for minutes. Van Gundy added two simple sets to encourage quick hitting looks.


Each big sets a screen at or around the block with each wing whipping around to collect a pass.


As Jackson (or Ish Smith) crosses the timeline, a wing will use a quick screen to start the possession. Are these groundbreaking strategies? Of course not, but it’s an easy way to incorporate the shooters and scorers.

The Horns set has an infinite amount of action and outcomes, and it’s been a staple of the Pistons’ offense for a couple years now:

And finally, an automatic for all NBA teams is the drag screen with the trailing big:

It’s more default action than any set play. When the big is clearly trailing, he sets a screen for the ball handler at the top of the key.

Acceptable Trends and Dead Ends

A closer look at the habits —both good and bad—of players, coaches and maybe even DBB commentators.

Andre Drummond has clearly taken a liking to the fake handoff:

It’s a move he’s pulled off in darn near every game. Careful though, players will adjust as Karl-Anthony Towns did.

How good is a defender? Watching what he does off-ball will tell you all you need to know:

Defensively, games are won off-ball. Recognition of what’s happening in front of you and your ability to react in a timely matter will - often times - determine a win or loss. Above, Stanley Johnson jumps a cross court pass, helps out on penetration, correctly reads the PNR, then intercepts a lazy pass. I thought Stanley Johnson had his best week in a Pistons’ uniform.

Langston Galloway and Anthony Tolliver each played huge parts in the win against the Clippers:

Galloway with his shooting and Tolliver with everything else. AT is the most aggressive PNR defender on the Pistons, and I love it. Bradley logs the steal in the box score, but it’s generated by Tolliver. It’s going to hard to keep both these guys off the court.

The backcourt trio of Reggie Jackson, Avery Bradley and Ish Smith kept the defending champs off balance all game:

61 points on 22-of-32 shooting, including seven triples set the pace for the Pistons’ win.

Lively hands and feet are always a good thing on defense:

Drummond certainly has his troubles defensively but calculated and timely gambles can be a good thing.

In an effort to keep the big fella involved, Dre has been tasked to trigger the offense with his passing:

Knock it off, Magic Johnson. While there are times the pinpoint passing works, on too many occasions is ends up in a turnover. There are no extra points awarded for degree of difficulty.

The best way to feed Drummond around the basket is to put the ball where only he can get it:

Put the ball at the rim (or a bounce pass), don’t whip it at Andre’s face mid-air. Forcing the ball to Dre with all those extra arms and legs around is a losing bet.

One High, One Low

One offbeat high and one offbeat low.


Remember the ram screen from the Approved Action? Below is Minnesota’s version to initiate PNR:

Instead of Dre chasing, the Pistons simply switch with Tobias Harris and do a decent job defending. Off-ball switching works (in small doses). As long as the Pistons don’t make a habit of it, I have no problem.


Jon Leuer has really struggled this season.

Henry Ellenson gets “credit” for the turnover but that’s on Leuer. Hank begins to position himself for a rebound with the assumption Leuer is taking the shot. When the ball is kicked back out, Ellenson gets called for three-in-the-key.

Crystal Ball

What to look for during the upcoming week.

Can we get a quick shout-out to Andre Drummond? As Vice President of The Criticize Everything Drummond Does (CEDD) club, it’s only fair to recognize the positive changes. Free throws aside, his shot selection (minus the Golden State game) and defense has been much better this year.

Above are two examples of Drummond reading the play and reacting accordingly, followed by a smart one-on-one possession. Good for him, more of that please.

I’m hoping to see in the next week a continuation of smart basketball from Drummond. Sound defense is clearly in him and now it’s just a matter of consistency.


That’s the official wrap for week two. If you made it through all those videos, congratulations, you’re an official Pistons dork.