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Detroit Pistons vs. Brooklyn Nets: Spencer’s a killer and Blake’s defensive deficiencies shined bright

The Brooklyn series was Blake and Dre near their worst

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NBA: Detroit Pistons at Brooklyn Nets Nicole Sweet-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to Film Don’t Lie: The Definitive Video Breakdown of the Detroit Pistons. For more on this comprehensive video series, please see our intro post. In short, I broke down hundreds of hours of video, analyzing how the Pistons did against each team in the Eastern Conference.

Brooklyn Nets

Brooklyn finished 42-40 and lost in the first-round of the playoffs to the Philadelphia 76ers.

The Nets took two-of-three against the Pistons.

Game 1 Game 2 Game 3

Snaking the pick-and-roll

What makes Spencer Dinwiddie’s (or anyone’s, really) snake penetration so special?

He gets the dropped big to open his hips:

Andre Drummond is one of the best athletes in the game but once Dinwiddie entices Dre to reach, our beloved big’s hips open wide as he pivots to recover:

In this case, Drummond’s right foot is his anchor foot, and a downhill Dinwiddie is being very mean to it.

If assaulting the anchor foot works on fleet-of-foot defenders like Drummond, odds are, it’ll also produce against the slow-of-foot, too, when hampered by a similar situation:

A little muscle behind that hustle, too. I see you, Spence.

Mr. Big Shot(s)

The Nets won Game Two in overtime behind a few ballsy shots by the 2014 Detroit Pistons second round draft pick:

Then, again, a few minutes later:

You know what really grinds my gears? The needless switch. Like, my man right there, number seven in grey, you couldn’t stay true to your matchup on those screens? Why switch?

Playing in each game, averaging just under 30 minutes per night, Dinwiddie put up 22-3-4 on 66-TS% against Detroit. You think he holds a grudge?

Act accordingly

Predetermining actions is a recipe for disaster in hoops. Rather, read and react is the preferred choice of operation. Below are two of the same early-offense looks used by the Nets defended differently by Zaza Pachulia.

The over-extension shown here by Zaza denies a clean catch-and-shoot for Joe Harris but it also provides Ed Davis with a naked lane and a one-way trip to Slip City:

The aggressiveness shown by Zaza paired with lack of backside help was all the daylight Davis needed. Help on a slip looks like this.

Later that very same day....

Now, with a less-attractive 3-point shooter in Caris LeVert cast in the same role as Harris before, Pachulia backs off and Go Blue attacks:

In clip one, the problem was a breakdown everyone on their own page. Above, however, is an example of Pachulia just not being good enough to hold down the fort.

If this seems simple, it’s because it is. Washed = Washed.

Front-court lapses

I dabble in mind-reading, and if you’re up for it, I’d like show you a neat little trick I’ve been perfecting during our summer break.

Pick any egregious defensive shortcoming owned by Detroit’s bigs - Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond - and I’ll magically guess the exact fault your thinking of. Remember, it could be anything related to the defensive side of the basketball.

Here we go....

For Griffin, it’s easy, closing-the-fuck-out seems to be quite the nuisance:

His leap-y lunges, in such susceptible open spaces, are an eyesore to NBA onlookers and innocent passersby. Casey wants his guys to run shooters off the line, but doing so, when Griffin is in the mix, often creates a beeline to the bucket for the ball-handler, while non-existent rotations signify an easy deuce for the offense is on the way.

Whether attempting to close out like above, or the mental gaffe below, Griffin’s 3-point-line defense has been shaky since he joined the squad in January of 2018.

At this point in his career, Jared Dudley is a one-trick pony on offense. Keep a token hand in his face, especially during the closing minutes of a one-possession game, and he’s basically a ball-reversal guy or a screen-setter, just don’t let him shoo...

Dudley is granted an open look because Griffin initially places himself way too deep off the corner-three, tie game. Blake, as we’ve seen, certainly isn’t immune to on-court daydreaming.

To those who regularly watch DEEETROIT Basketball, the only player whose defensive defects are more obvious than Griffin, is Andre Drummond.

Yup, the jig is up, I’m no magician, this is nothing new. For Drummond, that’s the problem.

It’s not to say the big fella didn’t improve on defense and overall exertion (for a lack of a better description) this year, because he did, but the nagging questions about sustained effort:

And overall whereabouts:

Still circulate, and rightfully so.

It’s easy to perch behind my keyboard and pick apart film. Anyone could point out a zillion strategic no-nos on every possession. And for the most part, those no-nos are fine. Basketball isn’t a game of perfection, and it shouldn’t be viewed that way. It’s a game of adjustments and making the best of the given situation. Mistakes are acceptable, encouraged even, as long as they’re new mistakes. Dre’s most-glaring crimes, however, have been on repeat since day one, and that drives Detroiters crazy.

At this point in his career, I think we’ve got him pegged pretty well.

Andre Drummond is a sleepwalking double-double ... or an engaged All-Star. Rarely is he egregiously hurting his team. He’s either a non-entity ... or a gamechanger. I’ve come to peace with a 50/50 gameday split of which Dre shows up. Because I know at the end of the year, he’s is still a net positive.

Ironically, for me, it’s too much work to keep hating on him for the effort stuff. I’m over it. He zones out from time to time on both sides of the ball, yeah, I got it. It doesn’t make it excusable, and I’m not happy about it, I’m just done whining about it.

Andre Drummond is what he is. Which is pretty good player.

20-21-2 in three games for Dre against Brooklyn!

On 53-TS% (paging Steve Hinson). :(

Forever ours:

Talk it out

The most integral part of all noteworthy defenses — communication — is impossible to find in any traditional or advanced box score, and only slightly more accessible to identify on film.

Don’t bother turning the volume up, we’ll talk through these examples.

On any PNR, it’s the off-ball defender’s (typically a big’s) duty to bark out orders as soon as possible. Below, Drummond is calling for Ish Smith to Ice (I believe Casey uses the synonym Blue, but we’re on my watch now) the screen which means to force the ball-handler toward the baseline. Because Dre is early, and, I’m assuming, loud with the command, it gives Smith time to flip his stance:

Ish does an excellent job of denying middle and forcing LeVert into the helping arms of Drummond. It doesn’t happen, though, without the duo’s quick chat. Dre must act as Smith’s eyes on these possessions because if Ish takes a peek, if only for a nanosecond, to see where the screen is coming from, LeVert, or any capable scorer, will blow past a distracted defender.

Below, Friend-of-the-Program Reggie Bullock calls for Blake Griffin to switch off his check, Jared Dudley, and chase Joe Harris. Only Griffin either doesn’t hear the call, or simply not in time:

The result leaves ole what’s-his-face in a pickle trying to cover the weak-corner AND Harris. Eventually, a Nets’ triple is on the scoreboard.

Griffin owns a few less-than-favorable defensive traits, but diagnosing play-types and schemes ain’t one. Below, Griffin’s call for help falls on deaf ears as LeVert clears out the strong-side:

How can one become a better defensive communicator? Recognition >>>>>>


Easy pickins

I’ve heard that Rodions Kurucs plays the passing lanes:

Seems like I heard right, although those passes had about as much force behind them as a dying quail.


D’Angelo Russell averaged 21 points during the 2018-19 season on 53-TS% and was named to his first All-Star Game. In three games against Detroit, DLo logged 8 points per night on 31-TS%. Yes, he missed some open shots that usually fall, but he was also hounded by Bruce Brown:

Apparently, the rivalarly goes back to their grade school days:

Russell loves to operate out of the PNR and picks his teeth with the bones of bigs who dare to switch. Below, a Nets high pick-and-roll, seeking that exact look, is thwarted from an incredibly smart pre-switch by the dude in the red shoes:

Russell settles for the jumper, in large part, because a mismatch with red shoes isn’t as appealing as a mismatch with Zaza.

With Russell now on the west coast, Bruce Brown and the rest of the Pistons turn their sights to Kyrie Irving, Brooklyn’s new point guard. In 23 career games against Detroit, Irving has averaged 21 points on 62-TS%, and includes this highlight bucket from last season:

Block party

Avert your eyes, Blake Griffin fans:

Yes, one of those is a pre-season block, but it’s a helluva play. With DeAndre Jordan now on the Nets roster, it will be interesting to see how they split the center minutes.

Getting even

For the newbs, this is how Blake seeks out revenge these days:

A new kind of poster-worthy play.

Grounding Griffin

Blake Griffin’s averages of 20-8-5 on 54-TS% against the Nets was far below his season average of 24-7-5 and 58-TS%. Brooklyn did a fantastic job of swarming Griffin anytime he even thought about driving to the hoop. These examples are all from Game Two:

One on two? Three? Four?

LeVert obviously has the green light to assertively dig as he sees fit:

Aiding to the confidence of OK-ing a LeVert-like decision to freelance is the lack of playmaking and shooting skills from his check (the linebacker-looking fella wearing number seven) who is only one pass away.

Even late in G2, the Nets went under screens and made Griffin beat them from the outside:

He almost did.

Final play:

Make or miss league.

Small sample size, of course, but the Nets defended Griffin well: