Detroit Pistons trying to find consistency

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 20: Andre Drummond #0 of the Detroit Pistons reacts to a foul call against the Washington Wizards at Capital One Arena on October 20, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 20: Andre Drummond #0 of the Detroit Pistons reacts to a foul call against the Washington Wizards at Capital One Arena on October 20, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) /

After five games, the Detroit Pistons are looking for consistency on both sides of the ball to maintain their path to the playoffs.

After Monday night, my frustration took over. Seeing the Detroit Pistons lose to the winless Philadelphia 76ers at home after such a positive weekend was beyond disappointing. It’s too early in the season to get upset over such losses. However, my main issue was the lack of focus to start the game and laziness on offense.

I was expecting a loss on Wednesday night to the Minnesota Timberwolves. Instead, Pistons fans were treated to the best game Detroit played all year. The Pistons cruised to a 21 point victory behind stingy defense and explosive three point shooting. After five games, the Pistons are still above .500. It’s progress, but it’s a long season.

1. Biggest takeaway: The slow starts

The biggest complaint I have about Stan Van Gundy’s teams are the infuriating slow starts. It seems to be a plague the Pistons deal with every game. In both games this week, the Pistons fell behind quickly to the 76ers (and were down 21 at one point in the second quarter) and a 9-0 deficit to the Timberwolves to start the game.

While I see what is happening on the court, I cannot put my finger on the issue. They lose focus on defense and do not move off ball on offense. I am curious if there is something the Pistons do pregame that causes this. Maybe the morning shootarounds are not focused enough? Is there something they do warming up that would cause this? Either way, it really hurts the ceiling of the team. With a better start, the Pistons probably take care of the 76ers monday night. The last three games, the slow starts have put the Pistons in the hole. It might be time to switch something up.

2. The week’s MVP so far: Andre Drummond

It would be easy to give this award to Tobias Harris after such an efficient game on Wednesday. However, I am going to give the franchise center some love in this post. He did struggle defensively on Monday night going against Joel Embiid, but he also had 14 rebounds and Embiid committed seven turnovers. Karl Anthony-Towns had 23 points and 10 rebounds, but Drummond gave him everything he had. Towns had issues keeping Drummond off the boards, and Towns was working for every single bucket. Drummond is doing better at moving his feet and also helping out on drivers defensively.

In the past, the biggest issue with Drummond was the free throw shooting. It’s only five games, but the new form Drummond is showing works. He was 7-11 over the last two games and is not afraid around the rim. There is a confidence finishing shots I have not seen from him over the last two years. He also will be able to play late in games now. Teams are hesitant to foul him late because of the new shooting form and success Drummond has so far.

While Andre Drummond is getting his numbers, he is impressing me with the little things through five games. I notice that he is setting better screens for his teammates. This is opening the offense and spacing for the Pistons offense. He is more willing to come over and help his teammates on drives and contesting more shots. He is also doing a better job closing out on jumpshots against opposing centers, a big negative on Drummond in the past.

We know Drummond will never be an elite offensive player and we know the monster rebounding numbers he produces. The question is always the other things: the defense and free throw shooting. The defense is inconsistent so far, but the free throw shooting is so much better. I also love the passing and his involvement in the offense. Instead of more post ups, putting Drummond as a facilitator expands the options Detroit has on offense. Right now, Andre Drummond is a better player than he was last year. The question will be if he can continue that progress and show maturity to do the little things.

3. Most important stat: 64 three point attempts

The old adage in the NBA is that it is a make or miss league. In the last two games, the Pistons have taken 64 total three point shots. On Monday night against the 76ers, the Pistons hit 6 of their 30 total attempts. On Wednesday night against the Timberwolves, the Pistons were 15-34 from the long line. It is pretty simple to see which game was a loss and which game led to victory.

All things considered, the attempts are more important than the makes right now. In evaluating the offense, there is more focus on the three point line as a weapon from last year. This makes sense when you add guards like Avery Bradley, Luke Kennard, and Langston Galloway, along with giving Henry Ellenson more minutes. With more dribble handoffs, the Pistons are creating more space and lanes to drive the basketball. This in turn creates more open three point shooters.

It also helps Tobias Harris is shooting at an elite clip from long distance. With 31 attempts through five games (6.2 per game) Harris is shooting at 45.2% to start the year. We know that Avery Bradley will light it up from deep, and the bench is designed for Ish Smith to drive and kick to three pointers for open looks. There needs to be more consistency from three, but I like where the Pistons are heading to start the year.

Next: Bold predictions for Pistons' 2017-18 season

The next three games are a crucial stretch for Detroit. The Pistons have a three game road trip in California. They will face the Clippers, Warriors, and Lakers. All three times love to run up and down, so the Pistons will need their bench to play and produce. I do not expect a sweep, but the Pistons must grab at least one victory during the road trip and stay at .500. Then, it will be time to make a move and go on a winning streak.