The Detroit Pistons beat the New Orleans Pelicans Monday night thanks to a Derrick Rose last-second jumper. The Pistons are now 10-14 and as of this writing are 1.5 games behind the currently eighth-seeded Orlando Magic. The Magic are hosting the Lakers on Wednesday night.
If you are looking for one play or one sequence that helped Detroit come out on top, you aren’t going to find it here. This is basketball — and as we all know, the game is comprised of dozens and dozens of plays that help shake out the final result.
Our own Laz Jackson pointed out recently that Detroit’s defensive rating in the past 11 games has jumped 10 spots, and now Detroit sits at 17th in the league. That’s progress. And with Detroit winning four of their past five games, there’s been considerably less brain farts and miscues than we are normally accustomed to. Still, there’s times when you have to question the defensive game plan or whether or not a particular player is actually locked in.
The Pistons weren’t playing good basketball in the first quarter against the Pelicans, and this comedy of errors really took the cake for bad execution / awareness on the defensive end:
What we have here is a Tony Snell snooze and very late (or pretty much non-existent) Christian Wood help. Tony forgets the “see the ball, see your man” philosophy, and what makes it even worse is that Kenrich Williams isn’t cutting to the hoop anywhere close to 100%. Kenrich is just patiently waiting to see what JJ Redick’s plan of action is. I’ll give Wood a little break considering he had to be aware of Redick throwing a lob of sorts to Jaxson Hayes. Give it up to Redick for keeping Langston Galloway on his right hip (with some slight right arm action) and keeping his head up instead of already having his mind made up that he was going to get a shot up for himself.
Here Rose is solely focusing on ball handler Josh Hart and is not picking up anyone else (like Hayes) or doing much of anything. But there seems to be communication problems between Rose and Snell. If Rose was to stop ball or pick up Hart, then I suppose Kennard should have been the one to pick up Hayes, however, Jrue Holiday needed to be accounted for as well.
Jaxson Hayes is a very tall human and shouldn’t ever be able to slip by the defense running down the middle of the court on a fast break. Plus, Hayes isn’t exactly sprinting down the court and I’ll note that he wasn’t wearing an invisibility cloak either.
New Orleans was dead set on getting a two-for-one before the half. What better way of making that happen than driving it at Rose and surrounding the perimeter with four shooters. Griffin could have contested better, but we all know that’s not his strength. Perhaps Griffin could have attempted to take a charge, though it wasn’t to be (after all, we want Griffin to stay as healthy as can be). Wood barely exists on this play — even if Hart kicked it out to Nicolo Melli or Brandon Ingram, Wood is hardly in position to get out to either and get a hand up. Bruce Brown wasn’t in much better recover position either.
Despite Detroit making it entirely too easy for the Pelicans to get buckets at times, Detroit won the game. They made enough plays. As Detroit works their way back to the .500 mark (and looking at the schedule, it’s going to be a steep mountain), they will have to do so many of the little things throughout the game to put themselves in position to win close games. When you have the offensive skill set of a Blake Griffin and Derrick Rose on your roster, there’s a better than decent chance that you should have good results at the end of close games.
This play sees Bruce dart toward the basket right as Lonzo Ball goes to double team Griffin — it’s instantaneous. Griffin makes the quick, on target pass over Holiday and it’s an easy lay-up. Jahlil Okafor didn’t do his team any favors. He is paying way too much attention to a complete non-shooter in Drummond, not to mention he has to step out of the paint (and does so) to avoid a defensive three-second call as well. Though, if Okafor was more proactive then he may have been able to challenge Brown’s lay-up.
JJ Redick isn’t a bad defender by any means, but Luke leaves him in the spin cycle here. Probing Luke is a good thing, because sometimes Luke gives the ball up too early. Probing and shooting Luke is good Luke.
Back to Mr. Brown: this one, while he does have the shot clock on his side, it’s still a great example of a winning individual defensive play. The shot falls for Ingram (let’s be clear, Ingram is a rising star and hits tough shots) but I can’t see where Brown could do a better job at making Ingram’s life hard on that one. Everyone knew Ingram was going to pop it. Note: I’m not ecstatic with Kennard’s lack of a box out or Rose’s disinterest with getting a body / position on Holiday. Ingram misses that shot and Hart or Holiday get the rebound then things look a lot less bright.
It was isolation time for Rose with Detroit down a bucket under a minute to go, and every Pelican was more than staying home on their man. Lonzo’s defense was strong, it’s just that Rose’s offense was that much better. A soft lefty finish, oh my! If Rose went righty with that one then Lonzo might have blocked it.
Lastly, here’s another individual defensive play that is noteworthy. It’s another possession where you just know Ingram is going to be the shot taker. Blake doesn’t allow Ingram to get by him, and whether it was a conscious decision or not, doesn’t contest the shot either. With Ingram’s length, Blake wasn’t going to be able to impact the shot anyway. And perhaps Blake stayed down because he didn’t want to bite on a shot fake which would likely lead to a foul, and then give Ingram a chance at the line. In any case, the shot Ingram attempted was not an easy one unless you’re Jordan, James or maybe Bryant. Credit to Blake.
Of course, we know what happened on the final full possession of the game for the Pistons. Rose went to work again and scored his 16th and 17th points of the quarter.
The Pistons made just enough plays against New Orleans to win. It wasn’t always pretty. But good teams consistently find ways to win no matter what it looks like. A few weeks ago it sure did seem like Detroit was a long, long way from being considered anything close to good team. Now, Detroit may be putting something together that changes our minds on that.