After winning the first game of the season, the Detroit Pistons have not won since. They have another game against Atlanta tonight, followed by Golden State Sunday, and a two game home stand against the Bucks.
Teams: Atlanta Hawks (3-1) @ Detroit Pistons (1-4) (Regular Season)
Where: Little Caesars Arena, Detroit, MI
When/Watch: Friday, 7 p.m. ET, Bally Sports Detroit
Eight losses in a row could be a very real possibility, if the Pistons don’t figure out solutions to some of their biggest issues of the early season.
Is it youth and a lack of experience? Is the talent the Pistons are playing just that much better? The Pistons are in the midst of a tough schedule which can make it difficult for a young team to find rhythm and chemistry. While those reasons may hold some water, head coach Dwane Casey said “being young is no excuse”.
This is different rhetoric than we heard in the previous two seasons of the Troy Weaver era. The general manager and head coach echoed those sentiments when saying the team “can hang with anybody” and are “entering the competing… or learning how to compete” phase.
As they continue to learn how to compete this season, there are three trends developing early that could pay dividends.
Any Detroit Pistons turnaround is going to start with defense. Where the team is lacking in size with Marvin Bagley and Nerlens Noel out, they must make up for with double the effort. Troy Weaver said the Pistons internal growth is absolutely crucial to the restoration. A player who showed flashes of being able to provide relief is Isaiah Livers.
Isaiah Livers had a strong offensive showing to go along with versatile defense in the last game verse the Hawks (10/26).
Livers should provide more as he continues adjusting to the NBA after starting the year slowed by injury. Showing signs of being healthy, expect him to be utilized all over the court defensively.
When asked, Livers successfully defended Trae Young on several possessions, further proving his defensive value and versatility.
“His size is a huge plus for us when guarding Trae Young,” coach Dwane Casey exclaimed about Livers. Casey continued, “his defensive acumen is big time, and his size and position are big when guarding a guy like Young. He was good for us. He did a great job.”
Livers (112.7) is second to rookie Jalen Duren (111.4) in defensive rating of Pistons playing 20 minutes, or more per game game.
Wow! Hello, Jalen Duren! Ok, back to Livers…
The three point output (42.9% from three) with the high defensive effort makes Livers a potential ‘3 and D’ nightmare against opposing teams. He scored 12 points off the bench against the Hawks, which was the highest point total off the bench by a Piston this season… second to Jalen Duren’s 14 points in the home opener against the Orlando Magic.
Hello again, Jalen Duren!!! Ok, back to Livers, again…
Isaiah Livers, AND Jalen Duren have both proven to be some of the Pistons top defensive x-factors.
More Cade Cunningham. How Much More? More. You’re Welcome.
Selfish is not usually a word you want associated with your star player. But in the case of Cade, more is better for the Detroit Pistons.
Some fans have expressed concern about Cade Cunningham and an apparent slow start to the season. With per game averages of 20 points, 4.8 rebounds, 6 assists (tied for 3rd in the East), I don’t think that is the proper sentiment to have. These are stats many fans, media and content creators wondered all summer if he could achieve this season, or if his 2021-22 post all-star break run was a glimpse into the future.
After the Pistons loss to the Indiana Pacers, Bally Sports Detroit host Tim McCormick stated he thought a cure to the Pistons offensive woes was a faster start for Cade Cunningham.
My initial thought was that Cunningham had been purposefully deferring to Jaden Ivey and Bojan Bogdanovic to start the season. Learning to play with Ivey will take an adjustment period, and the game against the Hawks might have shown that.
Cade scored 13 first quarter points, finishing the half with 22 points on 10 of 15 shooting. Since winning the first game of the season, this was the Pistons most competitive game of the season.
Pistons head coach Dwane Casey believes his young star has what it takes, and has given him the green light to feel his way through the game.
“Cade just needs to be Cade. He’s a big-time player. There’s never a conversation on if he should ease into a game or put his foot down. He’s got the ball, and a lot of stuff we run is through him…He’s got that green light, he’s one of our go-to guys.”
Cunningham, though an unselfish playmaker, makes the Pistons better when he is in attack mode.
Clean Up Late Game Mistakes
The youth of the Pistons showed up late in the loss against the Hawks (10/26) when turnovers, missed shots and foul prone defense stalled their drive.
Coach Casey believes the team is close and showed late game improvement despite some costly mistakes. “We had some mishaps down the stretch, whether it was free throws or fouling [Trae] Young”, Casey said. He continued, “I don’t think it was anything that was huge. I thought we executed down the stretch and got the shots we wanted. There are just some certain winning plays that we have to make to close the game with.”
Cade Cunningham believed the team struggled down the stretch in three areas. Defense, rebounding and being “sped up” on offense:
“A little more possession from us, sticking to our spacing, taking care of the ball and getting the shot we wanted. We kind of got sped up and got away from what our game plan was a little bit. I think it started with rebounding and defending, too. If we would’ve got more spots and rebounded the ball, it would’ve helped us a lot.”
He does need to find ways to lower his turnovers, but given Cunningham’s usage rate of 29.8% being 2% higher than last year, it may take some time. With integrating new players, as well as adjusting to the new ways defenses are playing Cunningham, it seems him seeking to score more may be a viable option.
An end game lineup of Cunningham, Bojan Bogdanovic, Isaiah Livers, Jaden Ivey and Jalen Duren should provide a good mix of defense, rebounding and shooting to close a game.
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