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The Close Out: Pistons finish the week strong - again

A slip up in Los Angeles was outweighed by two strong home wins.

NBA: Sacramento Kings at Detroit Pistons Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

For the second straight Monday, I can walk into work and genuinely ask “Catch those Pistons this weekend?”

Approved Action

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

One set proven to be successful during the first ten games remains the double horns screen for Reggie Jackson and Ish Smith:

Jackson or Smith’s defender gets sandwiched by a rolling big and stretch big while shooters space out into the corners.

Last week SVG introduced a quick hitting corner pin down for the wings. Even if the initial pass isn’t open, the screener is:

Despite the block, Tobias Harris’ take is still a good look. Avery Bradley then examples the traditional use.

The Pistons highlighted a new wrinkle into their staple play:

After the flip back to Jackson, Anthony Tolliver and Andre Drummond set a staggered screen for Jackson, resulting in an easy look for the big fella.

Finally, the high screen and roll still keeps everyone involved:

Acceptable Trends and Dead Ends

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

A handful of similar and positive Detroit plays:

My favorite? Of course it’s the aggressive PNR coverage. Hold that thought, though.

Same action from the Bucks defended completely different by Detroit:

First, Stanley Jonson doesn’t offer help on a curling Tony Snell but later denies the exact same look. A+, Stanley. Next, Tobias Harris shows Avery Bradley how to properly defend a UCLA cut. A+, Tobias.

Stanley Johnson had his hands full with the Greek Freak but didn’t back down an inch:

Johnson gets better at digging against penetration with each passing game.

If you get queasy easily, turn away:

Both Jon Leuer and Henry Ellenson take turns getting bullied against the backup big men of the Lakers.

At 7-3, the Pistons are clearly in a good (and unexpected) place, but there is always room for improvement. Defensively, two things have stood out the entire season: rotating to cover the long ball, and stopping the ball handler in the pick-and-roll.

After the loss to Philadelphia, we discussed how Detroit’s non-existent defensive rotations led to easy looks for the 76ers. Here is how the Pistons defended the Bucks in the same scenario:

Much like the examples in the 76ers loss (and pretty much every game), the Pistons are having trouble with the X-out, leaving the ball and too many players helping (or zero players helping). Defending the three-pointer is a large part of modern day defense and Detroit opponents are connecting at a 37.3 percent clip, which ranks No. 20 in the league.

It’s something to keep an eye on moving forward.

Trouble with defending the PNR was a talking point all last year, and has carried over to 2017-18. The ball handler is scoring .909 PPP (No. 27 in the league) against Detroit, and the opponents derived offense from the PNR sits at .948 PPP (No. 21 in the league). Here is a sample of how Detroit defended this week:

These aren’t cherry-picked plays - Synergy’s numbers back it up. What sticks out to me is curious choice of when to go over and under the screen. If the on-ball defender goes over the screen, and his big counterpart doesn’t hedge to give him a chance to recover, the ball handler has a direct path to the paint. In addition, it certainly doesn’t help if the big is shading to the wrong side:

If asked for reasoning on the poor defense of the three and PNR, I’d go with a lack of communication. Now, how do you quantify communication? That’s above my pay grade. HOWEVER, most defensive communication begins with the center/big, as he’ll bark out orders as the ball crosses the timeline and everyone follows suit from there.

Again though, the Pistons are 7-3 but as King Knit-Picker, this is a point of emphasis.

One High, One Low

One offbeat high and one offbeat low.


For a vast majority of NBA players, the above play would be a baseline floater or pull-up. For Harris, though, the extra crossover put him in a better position. That, my DBB friends, is a professional scorer.



Crystal Ball

What to look for in the next week.

How do the Pistons deal with their relative success? Winnable home games next week include the Indiana Pacers, Atlanta Hawks and Miami Heat. Could your Detroit basketball Pistons really start 10-3?!


That’s a wrap. God help you if you made it through all those videos.