Roughly halfway through the season, the Detroit Pistons have been disappointing. They have experienced myriad injuries, sure, but have been a disappointment nevertheless. Part of the failure this year lies in the inability to win games on the road.
The Detroit Pistons will likely finish outside the playoff bubble, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Many will posit an eighth-place finish is worthless, that now is the time for a reset. Whether this is the correct view or not is a different argument. One fact is inarguable, though: the Pistons have been terrible away from Little Caesars Arena.
Through sixteen road games, the Pistons are 4-12. While this is not the worst mark in the league (the Warriors are 3-14), their .250 winning percentage is well below the league average of .434. Home court advantage is important, so a losing record is to be expected somewhat. But winning only a fourth of road games? This is a bad precedent.
Beyond the win-loss record, nearly every other measurable statistic has been worse on the road as well. Shooting from the field is at 44.5% compared to 48.4% at home. Three-point shooting is down, too, 36.1% against 38.9%. Not only are they not scoring as much, but they are also giving up 110.8 points.
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Again, this is not the league’s worst mark; instead, it is just about the average. Although, when they are only scoring 104.2 points on the road—24th in the league—does it matter if they play average defense? Not that the Pistons have been tremendous at home (they are 8-10), but at least there they have a positive point differential of +0.8.
Being on the road is even affecting personal performances. Andre Drummond is making 60.2% of all shots at home, but only 47.9% on the road—fully twelve percentage points lower. Thrust into point guard roles, both Bruce Brown and Derrick Rose are turning the ball over more per game. Only Langston Galloway seems noticeably better on the road; his shooting numbers, especially beyond the three-point line, are drastically increased in approximately the same amount of minutes.
Of course, many factors go into why a team should perform worse on the road. Road teams have to deal with the mundane stresses of traveling and lodging. Arenas and practice facilities are unfamiliar. Referees are slightly more inclined to call fouls, which favor the home team.
To top it all off, fans are actively cheering against them. No, the deck is naturally stacked against the road team. For the Pistons to win, only a quarter of these games, though, is more of an aberration.
The Detroit Pistons have an opportunity to fix this right now: they are currently in the midst of a six-game road trip against five Western Conference opponents.
This is, by far, the longest streak of the season. Unfortunately, they lost the first two of these games by a combined 53 points. The Pistons will not return to Detroit until January 9—which apparently cannot come soon enough.