Detroit — The Pistons’ dismal 1-5 start isn’t a result of poor defense or lazy offense. Turnovers have been a big part of the issues, but the biggest problem has been that shots aren’t falling.
Early in the season, the Pistons rank 29th in field-goal percentage (41%) and last in 3-point percentage (29%). Even when they’re in close games, the shot-making simply isn’t good enough to sustain them throughout the entire game.
It’s one of the bugaboos that coach Dwane Casey points to that teams can’t count on from night to night, but through the first six games, it’s something that hasn’t been dependable in trying to generate offense.
From an analytical standpoint, they’re producing good looks, but getting them to go in the basket is something different.
“We are (getting good shots), and all the data shows that the cameras and all that, so that’s why we’ve got to continue to preach and teach,” Casey said. “We’re getting the right shots and we’re turning down some shots — we had only (33) threes (Sunday against the Nets), and we want to get a lot more than that. We turned down some good shots.”
In some of those cases, players are passing up a good look to try to drive to the rim or to find a teammate for what seems to be a better shot. That’s not always the best decision, though, because defenses can reset themselves and the Pistons can’t improve on what they already had.
“The old saying is that if you don’t take that shot, you’d better get a heck of one once you get in there because that’s probably the best you’re going to get,” Casey said. “We’ve got to get the feel. On the drives, I do think that (contact) is hindering the ability to kick-out to make solid passes, because now that defense is riding you a little bit more than it used to be, and I believe the fact that now it’s taking some of the passes where it’s thrown at the feet, to the head, to the back, behind the guy. All that has to be adjusted and getting adjusted to by the players.”
Isaiah Stewart is leading the team at 57% shooting from the field and Trey Lyles is at 40% from beyond the arc. Finding the good shots hasn’t been easy, but the key is to take them when they’re there and to trust the work that they’ve put in during practice that those shots are going to fall in games.
Starting the week against Nets and Bucks is just the continuation of a grueling schedule for the Pistons. They play the Philadelphia 76ers on Thursday for the second time this season, and they have a rematch against the Nets on a back-to-back on Friday.
The combined record of their opponents was 27-16 entering Tuesday’s game. It’s still too early to try to make any sweeping declarations about the team based on the small sample size and on the high-quality opponents they’ve faced.
Casey said that he’ll give it some more time before trying to make any assessments.
“We are going to give it probably about a 20-game sample size. That’s where you try to divide it up in those 20-game periods, then you will really find out who is who, what is what, rotations a little bit more, figure guys out and what they can do and can’t do,” Casey said. “Our second-year guys are still figuring things out, figuring the league out, crowd noise and opposing gyms. It’s a new world for them also, and now you throw in a rookie guard in Cade (Cunningham) to the mix.
“So, it’s a lot of things we are doing. We are growing and we are doing some good things. I am excited about what we are doing, it’s not like gloom and doom. You look at our schedule and I would put it up against anyone’s — it’s one of the toughest.
Injuries bite Bucks
The Bucks were shorthanded, playing without three of their starters: Khris Middleton, Brook Lopez and Jrue Holiday. Middleton is in health and safety protocols and Lopez and Holiday have been nursing injuries.
The Pistons have had their share of injuries, so Casey isn’t happy about seeing another team be without some of their key players.
“Tomorrow night, (the shorthanded team) could be us. You don’t ever feel fortunate if someone has injuries or hoping somebody (doesn’t play). You have to take who’s there,” Casey said. “I believe in the basketball gods, and when you start wishing and thinking that way… I really cringe when people say, ‘Well so and so may not be playing.’
“No, because tomorrow night it may be someone on our team. You don’t want to wish that on anybody, so whoever is in the opposing team’s colors we are ready to play.”