The key quarter isn’t the fourth quarter for the Detroit Pistons. It’s the third.
Teams come out of half-time having taken a breath, examined the game, and discussed adjustments. Whichever team comes out with more energy, greater focus, and a better game plan usually wins.
Sure, sometimes one team is just that much better than the other that they can control the pace and trajectory of a game despite what their opponent attempts.
Usually, however, teams aren’t that far apart in ability, and any team can win on any night.
Half-time is the best opportunity to regain focus. A young team like the Detroit Pistons should never come out of the locker room without a renewed sense of urgency and attention to detail.
As Monty Williams said in his press conference after the Portland loss: “The third quarter is the tale of the tape.”
The Detroit Pistons winning 3rd quarters, but barely
The Detroit Pistons have a thin positive margin of +.4 points in the third quarter overall, which is good for 18th in the NBA. But they’ve been up and down from game to game, illustrated in their recent back-to-back against Portland and New Orleans.
At the start of the third quarter, there’s still enough time to overcome a deficit, as Portland showed against the Pistons and Detroit almost showed against New Orleans.
There’s also enough time to lose a game if you come out of the locker room with a lead, a lackadaisical attitude, and an inability to readjust when the opponent adjusts and changes the momentum.
Here might be another reason for frustration: the inability for a young team to readjust.
Shaedon Sharpe, Scoot Henderson, and Jerami Grant pushed the pace. Portland improved their defense. Broken plays and turnovers cost the Pistons in transition, and they often lost the trailer when trying to catch the fast break.
Against New Orleans, the Pistons flipped the script. They brought renewed focus to defending CJ McCollum and Jonas Valanciunas. They pushed the pace, cut effectively, and recorded ten assists in the quarter. They outrebounded New Orleans sixteen to three.
Some of this is hustle. Most of it is attention to detail.
Unfortunately, the Pelicans are a team with excellent veterans. They, too, know how to readjust, and they’d go on to outrebound the Pistons in the fourth and to improve their ball movement and rotations.
Basketball at the highest level is a game of adjustments. From one game to another, on back-to-back nights, the Pistons showed their development. This much change in a day bodes well for the months to come.