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Film Don’t Lie: Pistons do their best tank job against the Spurs

It’s becoming crystal clear the tank is on, somehow!

NBA: Detroit Pistons at San Antonio Spurs Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports

The Pistons laid a big second half egg Saturday against the San Antonio Spurs, losing 136-109 after trailing by just four at the half. This loss was a satisfying result for those in favor of the team tanking (and who isn’t at this point). In order for Detroit to give themselves the best chance at a high draft pick (i.e. talented, cheap player) to add to their young core, tanking the rest of the season is what must be done. Laying eggs in second halves of games (also known as not playing any defense and giving an injured Blake Griffin minutes) is a solid strategy.

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. And even though the below is a very small sample size of mostly poor and head scratching displays of professional basketball, you get an idea of why the Spurs game got out of hand fairly early in the third quarter.


Playing an injured Blake Griffin is not something you do to try to win games. We are seeing that now. It’s becoming increasingly obvious that the Pistons organization is very much playing a hobbled Griffin to help the team lose games, which helps their tank strategy. It’s somewhat covert, though. See, the causal fans that support the Pistons are under the impression that they are trying to win to get back into the playoff race. Playing Blake, injured and all (even the casuals know he’s injured, yes?) gives off the impression that the organization is doing everything it can to win now. Everything!

Those of us who are paying a bit more attention know that instead Detroit is actually in full-blown tank mode, but just aren’t coming out and saying it or aren’t giving any clues that directly point to it.

It’s all beginning to come together and make some sense, right?

Guys (girls?) — what is this? Any team actually wanting to win games would not put Blake on the floor in his condition. I’m wondering what the coaches are thinking to themselves when watching any of this game film. Look at Blake move. Yikes. He pretty much can’t! Isn’t it embarrassing and uncomfortable for both Blake and the staff?

Offensively, Blake has little to no lift these days. He doesn’t move laterally too well either. Straight line drives after a bit of dribble action is something he can muster, but practically anything else it means that more times than not it’s going to be a missed shot or a turnover.

The numbers completely back up this fact too. Blake is shooting 29.7-percent from the field (and 23.5-percent from downtown on 6.2 attempts per game) in the 11 December games he’s played. This shot attempt is just not Blake. He has no power coming from his legs or lower body. His confidence in maneuvering and finishing inside may be taking a big hit lately as well.

The game was starting to get away from Detroit at about this point. Andre Drummond sure does expend a lot of energy on the boards and with his offense — I mean, Andre puts up stellar numbers most of the time, no? But how about consistent effort in defending? How do you explain the several plays just like this one that we witness every single game? Drummond is rarely not a beast (stats wise and eye test wise), and has been an All-Star caliber player for many years while also being extremely durable. So I know some of you will complain that this is just one play. But, please be honest and note that there’s several of these types of plays just about every game where he offers little to no paint protection. No awareness. No pro-activeness. If Andre was a consistent defensive player we all know he and this organization would have more than eight playoff games to their name during Andre’s first seven completed NBA seasons.

I’ll just leave this lack of rotation here for you all. I’m not sure Blake needed to commit to that much help — anyway, who should have rotated to at least attempt to get a hand vertical in Rudy Gay’s area? Rose? Drummond?

After the nifty feed from Wood to Thon Maker, Thon forgets where he is on the court and allows the side backboard to sneak up on him. It happens to the best of us. Thon only played four minutes against the Spurs. We’d like to see more Thon minutes directed towards the tanking cause — so more like 14 minutes per game would be super duper. Thon is in his fourth season and in February will be 23 years old. Right now, it doesn’t look promising for Thon to have a long NBA career. He hasn’t shown very much this season. However, are we so sure to give up on him yet? In a perfect world, I’d like to see Thon get consistent minutes for the rest of the season, because while I am being hard on him in the above example, he’s still young enough and has certain skills that could improve and translate into being a serviceable rotational big man in this league.

Going out on a positive note of sorts. Svi Mykhailiuk didn’t have a strong showing in San Antonio yet he has been shooting the ball quite well from deep recently, and really has for the entire season (42.7-percent). Svi is 22-years old and is just starting to get his NBA feet consistently wet. He played just 39 games for the Lakers in his rookie season in 2018-19. In 28 games thus far this season, Svi is playing actual rotation minutes and has a bit more responsibility than he did last season. He also shows quite often that he’s more than a situational sharpshooter. If us writers and fans are going to be able to get through the next 40-some Pistons games alive and still consider ourselves self-respecting Pistons fans, Svi is one of the players we are all going to need to monitor. I’m confident he’ll give us many examples to be positive and excited for his potential future. Defensively, Svi needs to be more comfortable with the team scheme / strategy and will need to improve his strength and quickness. Offensively, he needs to be assertive and look for his own shots and for opportunities for others.

I enjoyed this athletic take from Svi against the Spurs. I wouldn’t normally say it’s good to have tunnel vision or to have your mind made up that you’re going to shoot or drive, but in Svi’s case here, he knows he’s going to take it all the way and knows that he, and only he, has the best chance to convert.


Pistons fans — what have you been looking at (or for) recently? And please tell us some of the Pistons stuff you’ll be looking forward to for the rest of the 2019-20 season.