Detroit Pistons can’t lose sight of ‘attention to detail’ like they did against Grizzlies

Detroit Free Press

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Detroit Pistons‘ first two preseason games were on opposite ends of the spectrum. Last week’s opener against the San Antonio Spurs featured strong ball movement and proficient outside shooting, and it led to a 115-105 win.

They couldn’t get anything going on Monday against the Memphis Grizzlies, however. The Pistons had more turnovers (23) than assists (17). They were crushed on the boards, 54-37. And they only knocked down seven of their 28 3-point attempts, despite several of those misses being wide-open. The Grizzlies cruised to a 127-92 blowout win.

Cade Cunningham could still be a ways away from making his preseason debut, as he’s yet to resume five-on-five action after spraining his ankle two weeks ago. His presence could certainly help some of Detroit’s woes.

But it’s no excuse, Dwane Casey said. The Pistons executed against San Antonio, and they should be able to replicate that performance with two preseason games remaining.

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“Just the attention to detail,” Casey said Tuesday. “Against good pressure defense, if you don’t have attention to detail, if you don’t run your offense with speed and crispness, you won’t be able to run it. That’s one thing these next few days, we’ve got to get to where we’re running our offense with pace. We’re sprinting back defensively. Whatever it was we lost, we lost our energy level, our whole competition level went down.”

Further complicating things for the Pistons is that Saddiq Bey turned his ankle during Monday’s loss, and didn’t practice on Tuesday. If he misses Wednesday’s road game against the New York Knicks, Casey will have to make his third starting lineup change in three games. Monday saw Killian Hayes and Frank Jackson start after both guards missed last Wednesday’s game, also with ankle sprains.

The Grizzlies out-muscled and out-worked the Pistons, among other things. Memphis had four players grab at least six rebounds; not one Piston reached that threshold. Ja Morant dictated the flow of the game from the opening quarter, finishing with 24 points and five assists. And the Grizzlies shot a healthy 37.5% from 3. Some of Detroit’s issues can be fixed with better effort and aggression, Casey said.

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“Our issue has been the 50-50 balls,” he said. “We’re in there, but we’re not reading and our first step to go get it is late. Everything we did last night was reactive instead of proactive. And being on our toes ready for long rebounds, long shots, long rebounds, reading the rim to see where the ball’s coming off, all those things we didn’t do. All of our fundamentals. As well as we played in the San Antonio game, was as bad as we played. And some of that is youth. And that’s what we’ve gotta predict and plan for some this year is the up-and-down.

“Some days, guys are going to look like they’re king of the world and the next day they’re going to look like they’ve never seen each other before. And we had some of that last night. But again, if we play with speed on both ends of the floor, if we match Memphis’ speed, we’re going to give ourselves a chance to win and we didn’t do that.”

After Wednesday, Friday will mark Cunningham’s last opportunity to play before the Pistons open the regular season at home next Wednesday. But the Pistons aren’t in a rush to bring him back and are prioritizing his health. Having an additional ball-handler on the floor would’ve helped Monday, but given the number of open shots missed and sloppy turnovers, Casey said there’s only so much one player can change alone.

“Our problems last night were from within. Everybody’s gotta look and say, ‘OK, what can I do better? Can I run the floor better? Can I play with a pace that’s quicker? Can I go box out?’ I don’t think one player can come in and help that, even facilitating. We missed a lot of wide-open, nobody within four feet of us, open shots last night. Cade can’t help that, nobody else can help that, but from within.”

Contact Omari Sankofa II at osankofa@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @omarisankofa. The Free Press has started a new digital subscription model. Here’s how you can gain access to our most exclusive Pistons content. Read more on the Detroit Pistons and sign up for our Pistons newsletter.

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