Preview and Chat: The Detroit Pistons

Kurt —  February 8, 2007

The John Amaechi story. I’m not going to break far from this blog’s long-stated purpose of trying to focus on the court not off (remember, I started this site in frustration of the lack of stories and media discussion actually about basketball and not the soap opera in LA in the wake of the Kobe/Shaq feud), but I want to point you to a couple of things. First, Kevin at Clipperblog, who is gay, writes an absolute must read. Second, I thought both Henry at True Hoop and Raptors coach Sam Mitchell made great comments.

Deeeetroit Basketball. They are the top seed in the East, and come June expect this team (or maybe Chicago) to be the sacrificial lamb to Dallas/Phoenix.

Under Flip Saunders, the Pistons offense has become a force, they are the fourth most efficient in the NBA. What’s surprising is they don’t do it by shooting particularly well – they are 20th in the NBA in eFG% — but they turn the ball over less than anyone in the league (just 14.1% of their possessions end in a turnover, compared to 16.5% for the Lakers) and they are very strong on the offensive glass.

Leading the way is Chauncy Billups, who is putting up 18.3 points per game while shooting 51% (eFG%), and you can’t leave him alone beyond the arc where he’s shooting 42.5% in the last 10 games. What really makes him tough is that not only can he score, but also 31% of his possessions end in an assist. When he is on the floor, the Pistons are 13.1 points better than their opponents per 48 minutes (for some comparison, Kobe is +7). Looking at the hot zones, the best bet is to make him a midrange shooter. Good luck with that.

Richard Hamilton takes on the largest part of the offense, taking 26% of the team’s shots and scores 22 a game. He’s shooting a respectable 48% for a guy taking on that much of the offense. He does his best shooting in the middle of the floor, you want to try to keep him on the wings (although he can score from anywhere).

Chris Webber has a little bit in the tank. Since he got the “get out of jail free” card in Philly, he has shows that reports of his demise were a little premature. In his 11 games in Detroit, he is shooting 59.6% (eFG%), much better than the 45.3% he had in Philly. In the last 10 games he’s averaged 13.6 points per game but he’s been efficient in getting them and is using 19.6% of the offense when he is on the floor, less than the 22% he had to take on before the trade. The Pistons are +10.5 per 48 minutes when he is on the floor. And don’t forget, he is still one of the better passing big men in the game.

Ready to see some zone? The Pistons pretty much manhandled the Lakers back in November, and did so in part because the Pistons went to a zone and the Lakers were flummoxed. Kobe was still slowed by his knee at that time and had just two points in the first three quarters. Lamar Odom was 6-14 and unimpressive, but then none of the Laker starters played well. The bench guys (along with Kobe) helped the Lakers make a 14-2 fourth quarter run so the Lakers would only lose by 14.

The Pistons play a lot of zone when they think the goal is stopping a star (ala Kobe). How you beat a zone is Kobe passing, getting the ball into the soft underbelly of the zone (then hitting threes on kickouts) and pounding the offensive glass.

No Walton. No Kwame. Walton was supposed to be back in the middle of this road trip, but his ankle is on its own schedule. He is not expected to play tonight, and may not over the weekend. In case you missed it, Kwame is out for another month.

Pistons Blogs of note. Both Need 4 Sheed and Detroit Bad Boys are great reads.

Things to look for. The Lakers need to pick up the pace — the Pistons are the slowest-playing team in the NBA, averaging 88.6 possessions per game (that’s six fewer a game than the Lakers). The Pistons are just 6 and 7 against the 10 fastest-paced teams in the NBA. Bottom line, if you can run on the Pistons you can give them problems, if you slow it down you are playing their game.

I expect there will be a lot of zone, but if the Lakers can bust that then Tayshaun Prince on Kobe Bryant should be fun to watch.

Also, last meeting Prince scored 31 on 56.3% (eFG%) shooting, so the Lakers need to do a better job defending him. Kobe’s knee being back closer to 100% should be a help.

to Preview and Chat: The Detroit Pistons

  1. Remember, Tayshaun is definitely not going to be the only Piston guarding KB24… They are a great defensive team and that all starts with game planning. The Pistons are one of the best at this and because of this… they always kinda let everybody switch off on Kobe so they always have fresh legs on him and not just one guy that Kobe is gonna figure out in about 2 trips down the court.

    Also, back in the Finals against the Pistons, Rip called himself the “best conditioned athlete” in the NBA and Kobe definitely took a little bit of offense to that by saying that if Rip is the 1st, Kobe is 2nd. Look for Kobe to show Rip and the Pistons fans who really is the most conditioned athlete in the NBA.

    And also, look for a big game from “Mr. Mo” Evans. He played for them last year before asking to be traded because of lack of PT in the playoffs. Mo would like to show the Pistons what they missed out on by overlooking him.

    And most important of all… I don’t know about the rest of you guys but I would call Detroit our #1 rival right now (ever since the finals). We have had good rivalries in the past (Sac, San Antonio, etc) but all those kinda died off over the years. But we still HATE the Pistons. We’re still bitter about the Finals and we haven’t really beaten them since. The whupped us on our floor earlier in the year and they one of the only “good” teams that the Lakers haven’t beaten this year.


  2. Actually we beat them last season at home. I should know, because I was in attendance. Chauncey BIllups ate Sasha Vuacic for lunch in the first half of that game and then went cold in the second half. Lamar Odom had a spectacular game.

    I still think the Pistons, Spurs, Mavs, and Heat are the teams with a real chance at the title. All the teams have been to the finals and are playoff tested. They all also match up well with Phoenix, who I don’t ever think will make the Finals…

    I think the Lakers can make it far and upset some teams, but a part of me wants to speak conservatively about their playoff chances, as not to jinx them…


  3. Everyone is more sold on the Heat than I am. I still think they are the third best team in the East, last year the stars aligned for them in terms of health and everything else, this year I think they fall short.

    And I think the Spurs are ripe for an early playoff upset.


  4. Would you mind elaborating on why you don’t think the Suns are a champ contender? I hear that a lot but I don’t understand the logic..


  5. Kurt, I’m with you… the Spurs are gonna lose to us in the 1st round this year! I think we can take ’em


  6. My gut discounts the Suns also. The best reason I can give is the same reason given by Charles Barkley and Kenny “The Jet” Smith when they were discounting Dallas a couple years ago. Sure, the Suns are good, but up tempo teams that play suspect defense just don’t win titles.

    Frankly, however, I haven’t looked at the numbers and I don’t even know for certain whether the Suns are an “up tempo” team that plays “suspect defense.” That’s just my gut.


  7. 6 – In the past 2 years, the Suns have been that team that you just described with the “suspect defense”. They were a team that would pretty much just let you score so they could have the ball back quicker. This year is different though. With Mr. Stoudemire patrolling the paint this year, they are much improved on the defensive side of the ball. I think they said during the last Suns game on TNT that they’ve cracked the top 10 in defense. I think thats pretty much the biggest difference between last years team and this years and its the reason they have been going on 10+ games win streaks and are now “title contenders”


  8. Wow, I can’t believe that UPS is out for another month. I never realised that ankle sprains were so bad, would it have been better if he had just broken a bone? I mean Gasol is back from a broken leg and putting up numbers. I realize that he was injured way back in the summer, but still.


  9. 8- Don’t forget… Mihm has been out a year… and counting


  10. Goo, I’m guessing you were talking to Jonesonthenba. I think the Suns are contenders.


  11. Kurt, as a Laker fan you should know that teams like the Spurs and Heat are always dangerous come playoff time. Never doubt veteran teams with a great defense and a great inside game. Just look at the champions over the decade. Except for one team (The Pistons), they all had either Duncan or Shaq in the middle. The Spurs remind me so much of the 01 and 02 Lakers. A veteran championship team that cruised through the regular season and then turned it up come playoff time. As well, the Spurs point differential is indicative of a team with a much better record than they currently have.

    In regards to the Suns, it’s a tempo and match up deal. They match up terribly against the Lakers, Spurs, Jazz, Rockets, and Mavs. Just look at their record against those teams this year. The Lakers let the cat out of the bag with the way they played the suns last year. If you can control the tempo and not fall for the “fun” of their fast break, then you have a chance. You have to pound the ball inside on offense and cover their three point shooters on defense. As well, when you throw up a shot, you’ve got to get back as soon as possible in order to prevent the break. I almost think you allow Steve Nash to score as many points as he wants. Just don’t chase him all over the floor, because as soon as he draws a double he’s kicking it out to an open man. Nash can’t beat you just scoring by himself. If the Lakers were a bit more playoff ready, they would have beat the Suns. In the end they weren’t mentally prepared the way they should have been.

    I would think the Lakers have a better chance against the Suns than they do against the Spurs, because the Spurs don’t mess around come playoff time. As well, the matchup advantages the Lakers have against the Suns are far greater than what they have against the Spurs.


  12. By the way, against the Lakers, Jazz, Spurs, Rockets, and Mavs the Suns are 3-8, while the Lakers have a 7-5 against the Spurs, Jazz, Rockets, Suns, and Mavs.


  13. I am wary of the Spurs, I wouldn’t be shocked if they won it all. That said, I think the cat is out of the bag on them as well, teams are playing them differently (particularly late in games) and forcing someone other than the big three to take a shot. The Lakers did it, Finley just hit it. But they’ve missed others. It’s just a gut feel, but so long as they have Duncan and Parker they are a threat.

    I think the Suns are a different team with Amare than the one the Lakers beat. (But yes, the Lakers are better too.) And they are 10th in the league in defensive eff. They are not bad.

    The Heat, well, last year they pulled it together for a run. But to me, they just look old right now. I’m not sure they can pull it together for an entire playoffs. That said, in the East right now, they may only face one tough series.


  14. Even though they are terrible right now, the Heat have no competition other than the Pistons. So they probably still have a chance.


  15. Wow, that was some terrible alternate universe where lamar odom is trapped in his invisible mode and some evil scientist replaced kobe’s hands with kwame’s. this is one of those: no post-game talk, burn the tape, forget about it games, if we win the last 2 on this trip then its a 5-3 success


  16. i dont wanna lose cook.


  17. Man, that game just looks ugly.


  18. I read FB&G every day and consider you ard your regulars
    pretty smart basketball fans. So I won’t comment on Kobe’s
    horrible turnover numbers (I’m a big Kobe fan) or their general
    inability to get defensive rebounds against ANY team. I’ll leave
    that to you smart guys. But I want to point out a blind spot in your, and everybody else’s coverage of the Lakers. Everyone, including apparently Kobe, is enamored with his “getting everyone involved” strategy in almost every first half of every game. Don’t you smart guys understand that that means every team lays off him in the first half and plays 5 on the other 4? It’s a no brainer. Then when he decides to “take over” the game, they recognize it after a couple of plays and 2 to 3 players sandwich him when he tries dribble thru everyone. But Kobe is in his “take over” mode and doesn’t adapt. IT IS PATENTLY OBVIOUS THAT KOBE MUST PLAY A BALANCED GAME FROM BEGINNING TO END.


  19. Detroit plays a very boring game. It can be frustrating for opponents who still see the game as fun. It is clear to me that the Lakers play best when they are having fun. So what do you with an opponent that insists on playing a boring style of basketball. Do you succumb or do you compete? Last night, the Lakers succumbed. The bland and old have as many weaknesses to be exploited as do the young and reckless. Go for the jugular and expose them, break them down, and then play your style of ball. They play zone, get up the court befofre they have a chance to setup the defense. If you have to set up half court, find the creases, pound it in the paint, place Odom and Bynum there, have the defense collapse on the interior, and then pitch out to wide open shooters. Put shooters in there, who can make their shots. Make Detroit pay for their conservatism. They’re playing conservative because they are the ones who are afraid, because they know they can’t man up against the young, quick players of the Lakers.


  20. Paul, I’m afraid you don’t represent other Lakers fans very impressively. So Detroit is afraid? They don’t see the game as fun? You must be terribly young. It’s a lot more fun when everyone can pass, everyone can score and everyone has a basketball IQ. But I guess you’d rather watch a “supporting cast” of inexperienced kids waiting for Kobe to hand out passes like Daddy giving out candy.

    Detroit is Detroit. Not sexy, just balanced. And quite possibly the kind of boring team that will put some Western Conference darling to sleep in the Finals.


  21. Lanier Fan,

    I didn’t mean to diss the Pistons. I was just commenting on the fact that the Lakers got lulled into lethargy by the zone defense. And that zones can be beat if you put your mind to it. That being said look at that the college game, lots of missed shots. I don’t like the zone; I liked the NBA pre zone defense.


  22. Looks like strategy/counter strategy is taking place in the NBA for the Lakers.

    The Smusher can’t defend the high pick and roll? Nevermind, we’ll bring out the big guys to cover up.

    Gee, we’re not getting as many defensive rebounds. I wonder why?

    The Smusher can’t be a true point guard. Let him be a “Dishee” and let Kobe be the point. Well, at least for the first three quarters.

    Gee, they’ve gone into a zone and the “Dishee” is getting covered. 1 for 9. Did you see him screaming at the referee?

    Now let’s see how Bryant compares to Nash.

    Eight turnovers you say? We got blown out?

    Maybe Kobe would be happier if he had a teammate that could penetrate and dish rather than a “Dishee” scoring machine that was always looking to steal from behind rather than stay in front of his man?