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The Close Out: Six game Pistons losing streak have you nervous? Don’t be.

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It was a rough week for the Pistons, but they’re still playing quality ball.

NBA: Boston Celtics at Detroit Pistons Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Well thank God that stretch is over.

The Pistons have lost six straight including going 0-4 in week eight.

But you know what?

I’m not fazed (important) and I don’t suspect they are either (slightly more important).

Detroit lost by four points or fewer in road losses to the San Antonio Spurs, Milwaukee Bucks and at home to the Golden State Warriors before a ten point defeat to the visiting Boston Celtics.

They’re not as good as their 14-6 start to the season but certainly not as bad as the six game losing streak might indicate.

Below, we’ll take a second look at the awful execution that ended the Warriors game, visit the coming out party for Boban, and try to take a lesson out of the switch-y Golden State defense.

Inside the Pistons’ playbook

Like any team, the Pistons have a go-to collection of sets and play types. Here we’ll break down the plays used often by the Pistons, along with variations and break down the process and the results.

During weeks one through seven we’ve gone over the not-so-subtle changes to the offense and since there is so much to unpack from a ridiculously difficult week, let’s just focus on the end of the Golden State Warriors game. We’ll return to the deep dives into the playbook next week.

In the winding seconds of the 102-98 loss to the visiting Warriors, Detroit had an opportunity to tie the game:

Put your make-believe hat on and pretend you didn’t know Reggie Jackson—come hell or high water—was going to take the shot. Exploring the one play goes something like this:

Proper spacing is absolutely everything in a functional offense. As Jackson prepares to put his foot on the pedal, Drummond sets an off-ball screen for a Avery Bradley. The problem, though, is the screen is way too damn close to the ball handling Jackson. Spacing is defeated before the play has a chance to get warmed up.

Next, the Warriors switched (we’ll discuss more below on this below) all game with Draymond Green continuously jumping Bradley’s route. Knowing this, Detroit (Jackson) failed to take advantage.

With Green out of the picture, Klay Thompson was going to be left checking a rolling Drummond - only he left to double team Jackson! This sequence leaves Dre wide-the-f-open.

Dumping the ball off to Drummond would’ve ended up in Dre free throws, an and-one or Drummond finding Anthony Tolliver in the corner (something he’s increasingly getting better at - like here).

I’ll take any of those results over an absolute prayer.

It’s one thing to blow by a defender (ugh) and then force the issue but it’s completely different when there so many other viable options.

This Week’s Trends and Dead Ends

A closer look at the habits —both good and bad—of players, coaches, and maybe even DBB commentators. Discover what the Pistons are doing really well, and understand what to look out for going forward.

Positive

The Toothpaste was set free:

Boban Marjanovic collected 10 points and four rebounds in just under 14 minutes of action in the Warriors loss. Stan Van Gundy seems open to playing Boban a bit more:

The fan favorite Marjanovic has seen limited playing time thus far often sent in to try and light an offensive spark when the Pistons are trailing. Extended playing time would come to the delight of many. I’m a bit a higher on Eric Moreland than most—relatively speaking of course, he’s serviceable—but by Twitter’s loose definition, Boban is a point-center too (eye roll)!

(extra points if you can tell me why he’s been dubbed The Toothpaste)

The Bench Mob had a rough go of things earlier in the week but regrouped to finish strong against the Warriors and Celtics. Ish Smith single-handily kept the Boston game close during late stretches of the third quarter and early fourth:

Smith finished with 11 points, six rebounds and five assists which included playing the entire fourth quarter for the ineffective Reggie Jackson.

Some call it floating and others call it shaking - call it whatever you want but the idea of making yourself available along the three-point line is a top priority for ideal spacing:

Staying in one place is an offensive no-no for a motion offense (especially during penetration) while creating passing lanes is a big yes-yes.

Similar positive Pistons’ plays:

  1. Smith’s left-to-right crossover is extremely effective.
  2. Dre spends little time on the floor before collecting himself and going back strong.
  3. If you can’t alter the shot, take the charge. A+ Eric Moreland.

Correcting mistakes:

Going over the elbow screen when the ball is coming from the baseline is certain bucket-allowing death. Jackson rights his wrong a few plays later.

I’m mixed on these outlets:

For now, though, I enjoy Drummond exploring his boundaries.

Golden State puts on an offensive clinic every time they enter the building. For a player like Drummond trying to come into his own on the defensive end, the power of recognition is indisputable. He took some lumps:

But he fought back too:

That fight didn’t exist last year. On a side note, I’m going to look into hand warmers on the go and sell them exclusively to Dre as his hands always seem to be cold.

Negative

Buckle in.

Milwaukee role players Malcolm Brogdon and Rashad Vaughn made timely plays throughout the Bucks’ 104-100 win:

The duo chipped in a combined 21 points, nine rebounds and six assists off the bench.

Dictating where the ball goes while playing defense is something every team strives for. Most teams own a “no middle” strategy which means under no circumstances should the ball find its way to the middle of the paint.

In the San Antonio loss, when the ball was on either slot and a clear pick-and-roll was about to take place, the pocket-pass killed Detroit:

Per nba.com, no team contests less shots than the Pistons. San Antonio connected on 14-of-31 beyond the arc in-part thanks to these late rotations:

Raw totals such as the stats above don’t take into account pace and other variables but this is an issue and if you say it’s not an issue then I have one question: what’s the weather like in La La Land?

As mentioned above, the super-switchy Warriors defense made life hell for the Pistons, especially Tobias Harris:

Switching and timely help saw the Dubs record 15 blocked shots:

The Warriors own a switch-worthy roster which helps limit these looks:

I love Ish, you love Ish, but asking him to defend Kevin Durant and David West is—literally—a tall order. If Detroit is going to play the switch game themselves (something SVG ran by me and I co-signed) then they must get better at the triple-switch to help negate these looks.

Coming into the League, a knock on Stanley Johnson’s game was his inability to finish in traffic. Well, I’m not sure anything has changed since his Arizona days:

High/Low: One Highlight, One Lowlight of the week

Not all good and bad plays are created equal. Some stick out and make you take notice. Or they’re just so funky they deserve a special place of their own.

High

How to defend two players at the same time:

Above, Andre Drummond slides over to help on the rolling Freak while Tobias Harris helps the helper by shading over to John Henson. As Dre recovers, Harris falls back into the passing lane to pick off the pass.

Low

I put the Mike Snyder Guarantee (MSG) that Avery Bradley decided he was going to pass before he even caught the ball:

Rarely does such a thought process work.

Peering into the Crystal Ball

What to look for in the next week.

Home against Denver.

Back-to-back at Atlanta and Indiana.

Back home against Orlando.

Not exactly the murderer's row we just experienced.

The Hawks and Magic games are obviously winnable. Denver is hurting and the Pacers are surprisingly admirable.

2-2 at worst and 3-1 at best seem obtainable.

I’ll be interested in seeing how SVG treats Boban moving forward and how Stanley Johnson is shuffled in and out the lineups.

Until next time, be kind and always rewind.