Passing Judgment on the Pistons: The First Trimester (Part One: Team Edition)


Photo Credit: Winslow Townson, USA Today Sports

The season is now one third of the way complete and the Pistons sit at 13-14, good for fifth(!) in the Eastern Conference.  The Pistons compiled a 6-8 home record, 7-6 road record and a dominant 12-5 record against Eastern Conference foes.  They boast a -0.9 point differential, but are playing well of late having won three of their last four.  The schedule in the first trimester was somewhat daunting; the Pistons’ opponents combined record, entering tonight’s games, is 214-196 (.522).  This included multiple match-ups with Indiana, Portland and Miami as well as a game against Oklahoma City and a road game against Golden State.

Inconsistency was a main feature of the first 27 games, as the team struggled to some ugly losses, a three, and a four-game losing streak and witnessed the effects of players still learning how to work with each other.  Which low was the lowest is debatable, but some candidates include:

  • An 18-point loss @Golden State that was way more of a blowout than the score suggests.  The Pistons trailed 35-16 after the 1st quarter and allowed the Warriors to shoot 60% from the field while in cruise control for the remaining three quarters.
  • An embarrassing Sunday evening 114-99 trouncing at the hands of the Kobe-less Lakers at the Staples Center.  This one featured the Lakers outscoring the Pistons 64-43 in the second half.
  • A 20-point home loss to the Forever Derrick Rose-less Chicago Bulls.  The Pistons led 53-51 at halftime; after the break, Taj Gibson and Luol Deng mid-ranged the Pistons to death en route to a 99-79 win.  For those of you who struggle with math, that’s a 48-26 2nd half deficit.  (A pattern is emerging!)
  • Lakeluster 2.0!  The Pistons were outscored 29-15 in the 4th quarter by the Lakers, turning a 7-point lead into a 4-point loss.  Perhaps more embarrassing, they allowed the ghost of former lottery pick Wesley Johnson to score 27 points on 11 shots!
  • Easily the Pistons’ worst collective performance was the 121-94 home loss to Minnesota.  The Pistons committed 20 turnovers, allowed the Wolves to shoot 46% from three, and were outscored 88-62 after the 1st quarter.

The first 27 games weren’t all bad, however.  There were several nights that made enduring the past five years seem worth it to watch this team.  Their combination of points in the paint and effective rebounding carried Detroit in games where the team seemed to be over-matched.  Some of the highlights included:

  • The opening night victory over Washington, 113-102, was a display of what Pistons’ fans were hoping to see.  Josh Smith scored 19 points on 12 shots, Greg Monroe dominated the paint, and Chauncey hit 4 threes in his return to The Palace.
  • Moral victories count too, right?  The Pistons win @Sacramento doesn’t look like much, but it was Detroit’s first win on the road against a Western Conference team since March 14, 2012.  Smith played his most well-rounded game of the trimester with 21 points (13 FGA), 8 rebounds, 7 assists, 5 steals and 4 blocks.
  • The Pistons’ first truly inspiring win came on the road, @Miami on Dec. 3rd.  With Dwyane Wade out for one of his 450 lower extremity injuries, the Pistons turned in a well-rounded performance.  Seven Pistons scored in double figures; Andre Drummond grabbed 18 rebounds in 23 minutes.
  • The Pistons thoroughly dominated the Blazers at home, sealing the victory with a solid performance in the 4th quarter.
  • The Pistons outplayed the Pacers for four quarters and showed the fortitude to close it out when things got interesting in a 101-96 win @Indiana.  This was by far the Pistons most impressive performance of the season.  Josh Smith scored 30 points although nobody knows how many shots he took that night.  Rumor has it Rudy Gay stole the stat sheet.
  •   This one could go in both columns! The Pistons fell behind the Celtics 42-23 after the first quarter.  However, they focused up for the remainder of the game and ended up with a 107-106 victory.  Brandon Jennings turned in his best game with 28 points and 14 assists.

Statistically speaking, the Pistons are what their record says they are: a middle-of-the-road team in the NBA, and a top four or five team in the Eastern Conference.  The offense has been carrying the load thus far, although the defense has been making strides of late as they’ve seen less teams have insane three-point shooting nights, as well as tightening up their defense.  Here’s how the Pistons measure up to this point on various pace-adjusted statistical measures(NBA rank/Eastern Conf. rank):

  • Offensive Efficiency: 14th/3rd
  • Defensive Efficiency: 20th/11th
  • Assist Rate: 25th/T-10th
  • Turnover Rate: 13th/3rd
  • Rebounding Rate: 3rd/1st
  • Offensive Rebounding Rate: 1st/1st
  • Defensive Rebounding Rate: 14th/7th
  • Effective Field Goal %: 18th/8th
  • True Shooting%: 22nd/8th

The Pistons really do only one thing well: rebound the ball. In every other facet of the game, they’re the definition of average.  One thing of note, however, is that the Pistons’ Defensive Efficiency has been on the rise over the past weeks.  At one point a few weeks into the year, they ranked dead last in the league on defense.

Future Gazing: The Second Trimester – The Pistons are given the opportunity to start their second trimester with a much more gracious schedule.  Over the course of the next month, the Pistons play 14 games, and only 3 of their opponents are above the .500 mark on the season.  They play highly favorable match-ups against the Magic, Knicks, 76ers, Jazz and Bucks.  This is the part of the season where the Pistons need to solidify their playoff position and make a push for the 3rd seed in the Eastern Conference.  We’ll see if they’re up to the task starting on Friday night against the Bobcats.

Check back later this weekend for Passing Judgment on the Pistons: The First Trimester (Part Two: Individual Edition)