Lawrence Frank announced before the season that the Pistons would focus on the defensive end (like every coach of every team always says).
Against the Pacers, I couldn’t really spot a change in the team’s defensive alertness, though. The Pistons were lazy and slow on rotations, never really put the effort into their defense and got punished for it. I wrote about Greg Monroe’s shortcomings earlier, he is a part of this example as well. Most of my focus in this one, though, is on veteran Tayshaun Prince. Again, this is just an example out of many, I spotted at least three more in the third quarter alone that were similar to this one.
The Pacers play a side pick-and-roll on the right wing. Roy Hibbert comes over to set a screen towards the middle; Prince is ALREADY out of position at the beginning of the play. Look at how far he is away from Danny Granger, a very good shooter and the Pacers’ go-to scorer. Monroe could go a little higher to distract the ballhandler, but this is meaningless during this play as you will see in the next picture. I absolutely love Indiana’s spacing. Darren Collison is far away from the basket so Granger and Hibbert have the entire right side of the court to themselves.
The defender’s (Prince) duty in guarding the ballhandler (Granger) is to lead him into the screen. You don’t want to give Granger two options and you want to know which option he will use. It also facilitates the job of the teammate, Monroe in this case, to show on the screen. Prince lets Granger go to his right instead of leading him into the screen, which lets the Pistons’ defense basically implode. Now, this can happen every once in a while. After all you have a long season with a lot of pick and roll played against you. Jonas Jerebko on the other side of the court does a nice job of rotating over to try and contest Granger.
So here you see the real breakdown. Monroe showed on the screen, which wasn’t used by Granger. This puts him out of position, and Hibbert cuts right to the basket. There is no way Monroe can get back to his man in time. Prince seems to be caught up by the fact that he let Granger drive to his right. Both Monroe and Prince try to make up for it by going after Granger, completely forgetting to shut down the passing lane. Jerebko did a nice job of contesting the lay-up and Prince needs to step in the passing lane to force the steal. Instead he is watching passively as Granger locates his open teammate. At this point in the play, Monroe and Prince are dead bodies because they don’t have a purpose on defense. If two players aren’t guarding anyone, someone is open.
Granger drops the dime and Hibbert gets the easy two-handed dunk. What bothers me about this isn’t that Prince let Granger get to the basket. He just didn’t try to make up for it afterwards. I once had a coach who never pulled us out of a game if we made a mistake. We could do the stupidest thing and he would let us play through it. The only occasion he would yell at us was if we screwed up and didn’t fight to make it up afterwards. The Pistons have a lot of shortcomings, but if they are not willing to make up for them by hustling 48 minutes per game for 66 games I see a horrible season ahead. There might still be some confusion concerning the new defensive schemes and I hope this is the reason for the effort last night. If this is what we can expect from the team this year the Pistons will be gruesome to watch. They just don’t have the players to play half-heartedly and still win games. This effort will have to improve if the team is going to be competitive at all this season.