Pistons Road Struggles Raise Concern
Throughout the first eight games of the season, the Detroit Pistons are 4-4. They are one of the few teams in the NBA to post a 4-0 or better record at home, as Detroit has picked up all four of their wins at home. While Detroit is undefeated at home this season, they are yet to pick up a win away from The Palace Of Auburn Hills. In fact, only the Pistons and the Indiana Pacers have won four home games and lost four road games this year. In the four road games this year they have played the Toronto Raptors, Brooklyn Nets, Los Angeles Clippers, and Phoenix Suns. The were blown out by the Raptors in their season opener, 109-91. They were outplayed by the Nets, as Brook Lopez torched Detroit for 34 points and 11 rebounds in a 109-101 win for Brooklyn. Then came the blowout. Detroit was squashed by the now 6-1 Los Angeles Clippers. The Clippers dropped an astounding 114 points in the win while limiting the Pistons offense to only 82. Detroit’s most recent loss comes at the hand of the now 3-6 Phoenix Suns. They feel to Phoenix 107-100.
There is a common factor when looking at games the Pistons have won and games the Pistons have lost. Detroit’s defense has been stellar at home so far this season. When at The Palace, the Pistons are allowing on average, 85 points per game. They have yet to let a team score 90 points or more on them this season at home. The most a team has scored on the Pistons at home, is when the Knicks posted 89 in a 102-89 loss. Detroit’s home defense has been fantastic and is among league’s best, but their defense on the road has been torched every game.
In their four road losses, the Pistons have allowed on average 110 points per game. They are yet to keep an opponent under 100 points in an away game. The defense takes a huge drop when the Pistons do not play at The Palace. Teams have shot 50% from the field, and 40.2% from the three-point line against the Pistons, when Detroit is the away team. Opponents also average about nine more free throw attempts per game when they are the home team. Detroit’s plus/minus at home is 17.8, while their plus/minus on the road is -16.3.
While the defense has had their obvious and painful struggles, the Pistons offense has been just as bad.
Detroit is averaging 102.8 points per game at home while averaging just 93.5 points per game on the road. They are the least efficient shooting team on the road in the NBA. They shoot a league-worst 39.1% from the field in road games. They are 17th in three-point shooting in away games, 32.1%. The only area that Detroit shoots efficiently in on the road is free throw shooting, hitting 79.2% of their shots from the charity stripe. The shooting struggles aren’t the only issue Detroit’s offense is dealing with.
While the ball movement is stagnant both at home and on the road, Detroit only averages 18 assists per game in away games. They rank 26th in the NBA in assists per game in away games. No one besides starting point guard, Ish Smith, averages over four assists per game. Beno Udrih’s 3.8 assists per game are the second-highest average on the team, while every other player besides Smith and Udrih average under two assists per contest. The lack of ball movement has really hurt Detroit’s offense. Too many times has the offense collapsed into an Ish Smith pull-up jumper. For Detroit to become a better offensive team the ball needs to swing much more than it has.
Another way for Detroit to improve on offense is to play defense. Detroit is a solid team when they get into transition, and they get into transition when they play defense.
The point guard play is crucial for Detroit and so far it’s been subpar. Ish Smith is averaging an appealing 9.3 points and 6.9 assists per game, but the problem is, he’s currently a starter. He needs to have more of an impact on offense, especially since he has well-documented struggles on defense. He is shooting 33.7% from the field and 10% from the three-point line. Beno Udrih has cooled off mightily since the beginning of the season as well. He is averaging 6.6 points per game, along with the 3.8 assists mentioned before, but he also is not shooting efficiently. He’s hit 36.8% of his shot attempts this season while averaging 7.1 attempts per game. When Udrih is in the offense immediately becomes stagnant. His bread and butter is the pick and roll, but the only options he uses off the pick and roll is the screener and himself. He either dishes it to the roller or gets to the elbow, his favorite spot on the floor. Udrih’s tunnel vision constantly misses spot up shooters on either the wing or corner. The ball movement stops and Udrih takes an ill-advised shot. While this will only be a problem until Reggie Jackson returns, it needs to be fixed.
The Pistons have played their two easiest games of November already. The rest of November is going to be a challenge for a team on their heels right now. Detroit has games against the San Antonio Spurs, Los Angeles Clippers, Cleveland Cavaliers, Oklahoma City Thunder(twice), Boston Celtics, Atlanta Hawks, and Charlotte Hornets. Detroit also plays seven more games on the road in November, with many of those games coming against the opponents listed above. Those are all tough games, that Detroit will certainly lose if play all across the team does not improve.
The Pistons have played well at home, but if they do not toughen up on the road, the high expectations this team was hit with heading into the season will prove to be too much.
Featured image: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke/NewsDay.com