Modeled after ESPN’s 5-on-5, three of us will answer three questions about a Pistons-related topic. Please add your responses in the comments.
1. It may have come against two bad teams, but the Pistons have won two straight games for the first time this season. Big deal?
Dan Feldman: No. Of the NBA’s 30 teams, 25 already have two-game win streaks, and the Pistons’ consecutive wins came over two of the five teams that haven’t won back to back-to-back games. The human mind finds patterns where they don’t exists. Re-arrange the Pistons’ schedule, and I bet they win and lose the same games.
Jameson Draper: Hopefully it means the team’s finally coming together. The offense has worked seamlessly all season, but now the defense is showing up a little bit and holding teams to— no, this is not a typo— UNDER 100 POINTS! It very well could mean nothing, as both the Nets and the Bucks are bad teams, but it could be something.
Brady Fredericksen: Kind of. The Pistons aren’t clicking on all cylinders yet, but they’re manufacturing offense through defense. Scoring hasn’t been a disaster. It’s been defending. As long as the Pistons can at least play passable defense, they’ll steadily improve.
2. Which player is most responsible for the winning streak?
Dan Feldman: Rodney Stuckey. He’s scoring and defending well, and when a player like him plays with so much energy, it’s contagious. As the longest-tenured Piston, Stuckey has solidified his reputation for drifting. The upside is that when he’s going hard, it sticks out and invigorates.
Jameson Draper: Rodney Stuckey has been great. He’s scoring beaucoup points and stepping it up on defense. It seems coming off the bench was the right decision for him.
Brady Fredericksen: Brandon Jennings has been key, too. Maybe he’s just getting more comfortable, but the more he finds a way to balance his scoring opportunities with his distribution of the ball, the better this team will look.
3. How do the Pistons sustain this type of play once the schedule toughens back up?
Dan Feldman: Defend aggressively and run. Regardless of opponent, the Pistons have played well these last two games when they’ve attacked defensively. I don’t think two wins over bad teams mean the Pistons are on track, but they’ve found a style that works.
Jameson Draper: Well, they just have to use the skills they’ve honed against these poor teams and use it to their advantage against the better teams. It’s not very complex, they just have to step up their defense and continue to produce offensively. This is what they’ve been trying to do all season, not necessarily a new discovery.
Brady Fredericksen: Defend and get out on the break. That starts with pick-and-roll defense, which is legitimately the most elementary aspect of team basketball. If you can’t contain it, you stand little chance of winning. Under Lawrence Frank last season, the Pistons seemingly over-played every pick-and-roll. Through 10 or so games under Maurice Cheeks this season, they seemingly didn’t play any of them. They were slow and indecisive, unsure whether playing the ball handler or the roller/shooter was correct. Now, at least in a half against Brooklyn and against Milwaukee, they’re semi-trapping and trying to force turnovers. That can be risky, but the benefits out-weigh the risks if you can get out and score in transition.