The Detroit Pistons hosted the Los Angeles Clippers on an unusually warm Saturday in early February of this year. Warm, in this case, means 42 degrees which, for myself, is darn near top-down convertible weather in Detroit. Early in the game, the Pistons’ shooting echoed the outdoor heat wave by connecting on eight-of-twelve first quarter three-pointers while leaping out to a 40-22 lead at the end of one. The Clippers’ deficit would eventually balloon up to 25 midway thru the second quarter.
Then the wheels fell off.
The second half saw Detroit shoot 14-of-40 overall, including 6-for-22 from the long-line and the Pistons ended up losing 111-101.
The hot shooting behind the Pistons’ great start to the game seemed to have as much staying power as the tropical conditions outside the LCA. Unfortunately, the brick-laying that ultimately doomed Detroit against the Clippers was par for the Pistons’ course on the season. Collectively, they shot 33.8-percent on three-pointers in their first 51 games, ranking 30th. As a gentle reminder, there are 30 teams in the league. You do the math.
In an effort to paint a complete picture, I reached out to a few of my Hollywood pals and, after a quick pow-wow, we decided to reenact a few of the more memorable three-point misses from the first couple months of the Pistons’ season to show just how bad things really were:
The home loss to the Clippers dropped the Pistons to 22-29 on the season, and it was a shivering-cold 10 degrees outside in Detroit the following week. After a brief rise in shooting accuracy and temperature, things were back to normal.
Something happened. I have no idea what that “something” is, but there is no denying that something happened.
From February 3rd (the day after the LAC loss) until the exact time you’re reading this, the very same 30th ranked long-ball Pistons have been connecting on over 40-percent of their three-pointers, ranking second in the league during that stretch. As a gentle reminder, there is only one spot better than second. You do the math.
Coincidently, Detroit has also gone 7-2 since remembering the ball goes in the basket. Hmmmm.....it’s almost as if there is some sort of correlation?!
I’m not here to ponder if they can keep ripping up the nets, I’m here to tell you how they’re generating these looks. Below, we’ll answer how everyone in uniform has played a role in three-pt accumulation during the recent hot streak.
So, yeah, Blake Griffin gets his own segment because he’s been shooting 41-percent on threes during this nine game run (at seven attempts per game), and, whether he knows it or not, we’re best buds.
A staple of Detroit’s early-offense attack revolves around an immediate DHO to Griffin as soon as he crosses the timeline. With Griffin, who has muscles in places most people don’t have places, now moving downhill, he can bully-ball his way to the hoop, or, more pertinent with today’s convo, he can call his own number from deep:
The Andre Drummond screens from above are an option but the look also spawns a two-man game with perimeter-oriented Pistons as well:
Griffin can push the pace himself after a change of possession allowing him to walk into a three-point attempt on sagging and non-believing defenders. The solo endeavor also generously grants teammates an opportunity to set themselves up:
As the ball-handler or screen-setter, Griffin can create off the dribble or hoist three-point attempts out the pick-and-pop.
Isolation? Spot-up? How do you want it?:
I’m completely bankrupt of adjectives to describe this man so I’ll gladly accept recommendations in the comment section. I haven’t ran out of cheesy (pun, soon to be, intended) analogies, though.
Hear me out. The guy who invented the hamburger is smart, but the guy who invented the cheeseburger is a genius. Griffin made a name for himself during his time in Los Angeles where he was an All-Star and freak of nature. But with limited outside range, there was a clear ceiling on his potential, especially as the league increasingly drifted towards prioritizing the three. In short, the LA-Blake was a hamburger.
Detroit-Blake, however, comes with 90-percent of the bouncy bells and whistles of LA-Blake but owns a lethal-for-a-big three-point shot which more than makes up for whatever athleticism didn’t make the trip to Michigan. That shot, that magnificent and beautiful shot, is Blake’s cheese, making Detroit-Blake a delicious cheeseburger.
Is Blake Griffin playing the best basketball of his career? Well, I’ll take a cheeseburger over a hamburger any day of the week. You do the math.
(It made sense in my head)
Like Griffin, both Ish Smith and Reggie Jackson are able to actively push the pace:
While these cherry-picked advances might suggest the Pistons are road-runners, don’t get it twisted, because they’re not. Detroit prefers to play in the halfcourt, and paired with dismal shooting, it’s no wonder the team struggled to keep their head above water earlier in the season.
We’ve talked about the reemergence of Reggie Jackson here, but the importance needs to be slammed home. This team is a different animal with an aggressive bucket-getting Jackson.
Off-the-ball, Jackson continues to be en fuego:
He’s shooting 39-percent on catch-and-shoot threes in his last nine games and 44-percent on overall bombs over the same span and continues to hunt with or without the help of his team:
Laugh if you want, and I’m sure most will, but this version of Jackson, Andre Drummond and Blake Griffin is a formidable Big Three. Championship material? Of course not. But they have the potential to be a heachache for anyone who mistakenly looks past them.
Sophomore Luke Kennard has seemingly found a home with the second unit. Lefty is free to create for others while simultaneously getting his. Kennard is shooting a smidge north of 40-percent in the month of February on threes and can do it off-the-bounce:
And as a spot-up gunner:
Both Wayne Ellington and Langston Galloway subscribe to the “shoot first, ask questions later” theory. On the somewhat rare occasions the Pistons utilize pindowns, or anything of the like, it’s usually geared towards these two:
Don’t lose track of these three wings, they’re experts at relocating:
A healthy and contributing Reggie Jackson AND efficient shooting from the wings? That’s a pretty big matzo ball for defenders.
As for rookie Bruce Brown:
Hey man, no sweat, that’s what the off-season is for. There’s only one way to go as a 25-percent three-point shooter, right?
Before the season kicked off, Dwane Casey famously gave Andre Drummond the green light to chuck up three-pointers if it was within the flow of the offense. The scheme didn’t fully materialize, but that doesn’t equate to failure. Credit should be doled out to Casey for showing confidence in his big man, and to Drummond for being mature enough not to take advantage of Casey’s extended leash. This is how trust is built.
Drummond’s lack of spacing threat doesn’t exclude him from chipping in to Pistons’ three-point barrage as this short roll would indicate:
Consistent passing out of the short roll is a disaster variable for opponents.
The gravity on Drummond’s PNR roll opens up the floor as well:
Sure, Drummond isn’t exactly a three-point marksman but he’s still contributing to the long-ball effort, and please don’t forget his powerful play around the rim.
Newcomer Thon Maker has already made his presence felt, most notably, with this game winner in Atlanta:
And, finally, let’s not forget about Jon Leuer.
It took nearly two years but the stretch-big finally hit a three during Detroit’s road win in Atlanta. NBA dot com, which freely shares corresponding video of all traditional box score stats, showed Leuer a total lack of respect in regards to the historical three-pointer:
That’s a dick move, Adam.
Again, I’m not saying this is all going to last, but it’s been a fun little ride. If, and it’s a HUGE “if”, the Pistons can shoot at merely an above-average rate from deep, and with Griffin and Drummond cleaning up down low, well, you do the ma......sick of doing math yet?