Detroit Pistons: The statistical story to the comeback win over Phoenix

Detroit Pistons guard Delon Wright Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports
Detroit Pistons guard Delon Wright Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports /

The Detroit Pistons’ thrilling comeback win over the Phoenix Suns came by getting to the rim.

The Detroit Pistons 23-point comeback over a formidable Phoenix Suns squad harkened back to the grittiness of the Goin’ to Work Pistons, albeit miles from championship contention.

But what was most impressive from Friday night’s 110-105 overtime win was how this patchwork squad neatly fit into the fabric of today’s NBA.

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The eye test demonstrated the Detroit Pistons driving right into the core of the Suns’ defense and wreaking havoc like the Tasmanian Devil, while often relaxing into zone and staying on top of perimeter rotations defensively.

Though the early 2000s basketball connoisseurs would decry an analytical approach to the game, the numbers explain how Detroit clawed back and pulled out an overtime victory.

Detroit Pistons: It was an old school win over the Phoenix Suns

First things first, this game was ugly. Neither team did a multitude of things particularly well. On offense, Detroit’s effective field goal percentage, which adjusts for the added value of 3-pointers, was 47.8 percent, ranking in the bottom quarter of typical NBA performances.

But the consistency in which the Detroit Pistons got into the teeth of Phoenix’s defense was notable, with almost half — 45 percent — of their shots coming at the rim compared to the Suns’ 21 percent. This was a byproduct of guys like Delon Wright and Blake Griffin getting more minutes and displaying atypical physicality.

Wright’s impact in particular was a welcome sight. He shot 7-for-11 off numerous drives to the basket. He became such a threat that he dished out six assists despite being towards the bottom of the Pistons’ roster in assist rate. But when he’s in, he makes the most of it with him, Griffin, and Mason Plumlee on top in assist-to-usage ratio.

When Killian Hayes started, his apprehension to rush to the hoop was obvious. With Wright and Derrick Rose, who registered five assists of his own, at the helm, Detroit was taking better shots. This all culminated in the game’s biggest discrepancy: at the foul line. Detroit shot an efficient 25-for-29, while Phoenix only made it to the charity stripe 11 times total.

The Pistons weren’t just getting better shots and free throw opportunities in the half-court, they were also outrunning the Suns. Detroit limited itself to just 13 turnovers and Phoenix ran over 85 percent of their plays in the half-court.

Defense is tough, but cutting off half the court makes it much easier, especially when facing the likes of Devin Booker, Chris Paul, Mikal Bridges, and Cameron Johnson. That sharp-shooting four shot less than 33 percent combined on the night.

Of course, Jerami Grant’s 31-point performance won’t go unnoticed. Grant has shown all season how comfortable he is creating his own offense. His usage rate has climbed from 18 to 25.9 percent from last season with Denver while lowering his turnover rate to just five percent.

On Friday, when he wasn’t taking matters into his own hands, Grant was the beneficiary of drive-and-kicks by Wright and Rose for a number of easy looks. A 10-for-15 shooting night is a pretty good indicator of just how clean those looks were.

A look at a box score would show a difference in free throw shooting as the primary takeaway, but the story goes deeper. Yes, Phoenix shot better from deep. The Pistons have struggled all season beyond the arc.

But Detroit was deliberate with their possessions to get to the basket, draw fouls, and keep the Suns from flying up the court in transition. It was the perfect recipe to chip away at a 23-point deficit.

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