Detroit Pistons: It may take 20 games to see the real defense

Detroit Pistons guard Cade Cunningham (2) Credit: David Reginek-USA TODAY Sports
Detroit Pistons guard Cade Cunningham (2) Credit: David Reginek-USA TODAY Sports /

Early turnovers and a porous Detroit Pistons’ defense allowed the Phoenix Suns to build a huge lead in the first quarter of their preseason matchup.

Detroit turnovers allowed Phoenix to run, and when the Suns played with pace, their offense opened up. They’re simply too talented to be allowed to push the ball.

Preseason games are the exact opposite of playoff games. In the playoffs, the speed of play slows down and teams execute in the half-court. Teams that relied on elite offense in the regular season often have their weaknesses exploited in the playoffs, and they lose in the second round.

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In the preseason, teams play sixteen players like Phoenix did. Everyone gets an opportunity. Coaches are assessing and toying with lineups and combinations and players are still learning defensive schemes. As a consequence, the more talented offensive teams usually win. Teams like the Suns can exploit younger squads who do not yet have a cohesive game plan to execute team defense.

The Pistons defense is a work in progress

In the second quarter, as Phoenix staggered their starters, Detroit closed the gap. The defense tightened, and the Pistons covered space and not just the ball. Killian Hayes, Marcus Sasser, and Ausar Thompson showed their defensive awareness and their willingness to attack the offense, fouls be damned.

Entering the second half, the Pistons’ defense had gotten them back in the game. Only behind by eleven points, Detroit could take a deep breath and play basketball.

Unfortunately, that’s not what happened.

Detroit played a lackluster third quarter and entered the fourth down by twenty.

As we move toward the regular season, Monty Williams and Detroit’s coaching staff will make their decisions about the depth chart. As a benefit, we’ll begin to see the Pistons play a more cohesive, team-oriented form of basketball. By opening night, each player will have assignments, and throughout the first few weeks of the regular season we’ll get a sense of who the Detroit Pistons will be this season.

For the next three games, we’ll see the individual pieces. By the end of the first twenty regular season games, we’ll see the sum of those parts and have a better sense of how those parts can grow into a whole.

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