Detroit Pistons: Dwane Casey’s late-game strategy bombs again

Orlando Magic forward Paolo Banchero (5) shoots the game winning basket during the second half against the Detroit Pistons Credit: Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports
Orlando Magic forward Paolo Banchero (5) shoots the game winning basket during the second half against the Detroit Pistons Credit: Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports /

The Detroit Pistons lost their third in a row last night, dropping a winnable game to the Orlando Magic on a last-second tip-in.

There were some positives from the game, particularly rookie Jaden Ivey and the Pistons’ all-around shooting, as they hit 50 percent of their shots from long range, which kept them in the game.

But they turned the ball over too much and gave up a lot of offensive rebounds, especially at critical junctures in the game, including the final play.

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Dwane Casey has been taking his share of heat of late and some believe he will be the next coach fired. Fair or not, one Casey strategy has to go under the microscope and that’s his late-game lineups when the Detroit Pistons need a rebound and/or a stop, which reared its ugly head again last night in Orlando.

Detroit Pistons: Going small late in games

The Detroit Pistons are not a good defensive team and that is putting it nicely, as they are on pace to have the worst defense in franchise history.

So in coach Casey’s defense, he doesn’t have a lot of options to go to when the team needs a stop. But one habit he’s gotten into is going small late in games when the team needs a stop, and it has burned him several times, including last night.

With 4.5 seconds left in a tied game, Dwane Casey went with a lineup of Killian Hayes, Alec Burks, Bojan Bogdanovic, Isaiah Livers and Isaiah Stewart, with no true center on the floor. Predictably, the Magic went to rookie Paolo Banchero, and when he missed the attempt, there weren’t any Pistons around to grab the rebound.

This certainly isn’t all on Casey, as no one boxed out and not a single Piston attacked the rim for the board, but this is the lineup you go to when you need a stop?

I can understand going small if it is to put your five best defenders on the floor, but if that were the case, why is Bogdanovic out there? The Detroit Pistons had two athletic bigs on the bench in this situation in James Wiseman (who had been altering shots all night and had 10 rebounds already) and Jalen Duren, who is one of the best young rebounders in the game and may have been able to keep Wendall Carter Jr. from getting the easy put back.

The inexplicable part is that the Magic had called a timeout, so Casey had a chance to put in his best defensive/rebounding lineup and didn’t, making only one change, subbing out Jaden Ivey for Isaiah Livers but leaving his two young bigs on the bench.

Troy Weaver has talked a lot about getting bigger and more athletic, but it doesn’t much matter if all of that size and athleticism is on the bench when the team needs a crucial stop and rebound. This has happened several times in 4th quarters this season, as Casey has not made the offense for defense adjustments.

The Detroit Pistons are 22nd in the NBA in offensive rebounds allowed, and were dominated 12-6 in that category again last night.

These are the types of things that Casey’s critics will point to at the end of the season when looking for evidence that the Detroit Pistons need a new head coach.

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