It’s a Make or Miss League: 3 Makes and 3 Misses from Detroit’s Sloppy Loss to Washington

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Image: Nick Wass/AP

The Detroit Pistons, despite being short-handed, were able to build enough momentum late to lead a comeback against the Brooklyn Nets on Saturday. Sitting at 3-4 with injuries to Blake Griffin, Reggie Jackson, and Derrick Rose, the Pistons managed to stay afloat heading into a contest with the lowly Wizards. However, in a contest that the Pistons may have overlooked on an admittedly light schedule, turnovers and suspect defense again proved to be the dagger in an unfortunate loss.

First Make: Bench Offense Gets Rolling

While the starters struggled to find much offense throughout the game, the bench unit kept the Pistons from being completely blown out in this one. The Pistons uncharacteristically efficient 48 percent shooting from deep can largely be attributed to the bench trio of Langston Galloway, Christian Wood, and Svi Mykhailiuk.

Wood continued his torrid offensively pace as he solidifies himself as Andre Drummond’s backup. His skill around the basket and sweet shooting stroke has made the 6’10 big a unique offensive threat this season. Galloway continues to impress as he quiets down those that were calling for him to be moved prior to the season; his newfound ability to hit the open three at a consistent rate has been huge for this injury-riddled squad. Svi, meanwhile, was the first wing off the bench and showcased his ability as a sharpshooter as he fights to solidify himself in the rotation.

First Miss: Defensive Struggles Against Washington’s Bench

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Image: Will Newton/Getty Images

Just as the Pistons’ bench kept them in the game, the Wizards’ second unit made sure the team hung on – and even built upon – their lead. Remember how well Detroit’s bench trio played tonight? Notice how Thon Maker isn’t named. Maker was a bench-worst minus-13 in just eight minutes, finishing with a block, turnover, and three fouls. It was the crafty big and former Michigan Wolverine Moe Wagner that carved up the thin-framed liability. Second-year forward Troy Brown Jr. also finished with one of the best games of his career, contributing a double-double with 14 points, 10 rebounds, and 4 assists. Veteran CJ Miles and sharpshooter Davis Bertans also added a scoring punch for Washington.

Second Make: Young Guards Lead the Way

Despite the loss, both Bruce Brown and Luke Kennard continued to showcase their offseason improvements, as the pair stepped up as Detroit’s best players on the court.

Brown didn’t post any stellar statistics similar to the zero turnovers he posted in 40 minutes against the Brooklyn Nets in the contest prior, but the second-year point guard(?) continued to look very capable as a playmaker. It has become evident that Brown has become more involved in the offense as the team’s primary distributor, hopefully making his days of waiting around on offense a thing of the past. With 14 points and seven rebounds and assists each alongside solid defense, Brown is showing strong potential as an all-around point.

Kennard finished the contest at a game-worst minus-28, yet lead both teams in scoring – while shooting an efficient 50 percent from the field. This means that despite his best efforts, the Wizards simply overpowered the Pistons whenever Kennard was on the floor. However, as he continues to become accustomed to a starting role, Kennard was able to get to his spots, both on and off the ball, and capitalized. Eleven free throws help too, but teams refuse to sit down on Kennard when he’s fired a pass behind the three-point arc.

Injuries are never a good thing, but unlocking the backcourt of Bruce Brown and Luke Kennard following Detroit’s three true point guards going down has been a huge silver lining.

Second Miss: Turnovers… Again

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Image: Nick Wass/AP

Detroit, who now sit in the bottom-10 in team turnovers, continued their struggles against a Washington team that’s… not exactly known for their defense.

Brown Brown, despite his effectiveness, tied Andre Drummond for second on the team in turnovers against Washington, with four. Luke Kennard, the aforementioned leader during this frustrating loss, led the team with five. In this interesting scenario where three players at three different positions all have horrid turnover issues, each player has different mistakes to blame. Brown has a complicated transition to lead playmaker in the absence of Jackson and Rose, and will undoubtedly have growing pains. Drummond, for all the great he does as a playmaker from the center position, has made his fair share of boneheaded mistakes with the ball in his hands; he’s always struggled with turnovers when he’s more heavily involved in the offense. Luke Kennard, who has also shown flashes as a playmaker, doesn’t have the speed or handles to be controlling the ball as much as he has been relied on to.

Hopefully, the returns of Blake and Rose will help limit what has been arguably Detroit’s biggest weakness this season.

Third Make: Shooters That Can Shoot

For years, the Pistons have struggled with having shooters that can’t shoot.

I don’t think that will be a problem anymore.

While Detroit struggled at times inside (Dre shot 6/20), the team was hitting from deep, finishing the game at an impressive 48 percent clip. While the aforementioned bench unit was the catalyst of this breakout, the starting wings got involved as well. Wood, Galloway, and Mykahiliuk each knocked down two threes, as the Pistons have made a point to bring in the bench personal that works in today’s NBA. Kennard and Tony Snell, who continues to score the quietest 7.9 points per game in the league, also contributed three each for the Pistons.

After years of watching rage-inducing spacing problems throughout the past decade, the Pistons have finally added the personnel to become one of the league’s premier shooting teams.

Third Miss: Officiating Woes Continue to Confuse

Officiating has been an outspoken topic in recent years more than ever before, as the NBA continues to let consumers down with underwhelming reffing. So, when the Pistons are negatively affected by poor officiating, it’s not usually something to call home about.

This game, however, is an exception. There were points where both teams had frustratingly unnecessary calls or were forced to play through obvious no-calls. A total of 43 fouls were called, 20 against the Pistons and 23 against the Wizards. There were 48 free throws attempted as well, as constant calls consistently killed any momentum that the Pistons built during their second-quarter comeback.

Officiating shouldn’t usually be used as an excuse, and this case it isn’t nearly the whole story, as it was poor on both sides. As a consumer and someone who appreciates flowing, exciting basketball, the worse-than-usual officiating made it maddening to watch.