Detroit Pistons: Isaiah Stewart Calls Out Effort After Defensive Letdown
The Detroit Pistons saw the Los Angeles Clippers waiving the white flag and decided to follow suit. The Pistons were up 127-117 with 2:07 left in the fourth quarter and the Clippers had mostly bench players in.
A sign from the visitors of Los Angeles acknowledging that the game was over.
So how could the Pistons find themselves losing by 11 points in overtime! That means in just over 7 minutes they allowed the Clippers to win on a 25-4 run.
Many fans and observers have promised to be patient during a rebuild, but this level of inept defense has left them surprised. And wondering what aspect of Detroit defense, is this team restoring too. The organization has drummed the rebuild, or “Restore” mantra, which harkens back to the ‘Bad Boys’ and ‘Going to Work’ era teams.
You could see positive trends last season after a slow start. But this season has been a head scratcher.
The Pistons own the NBA’s second worst defensive rating, according to NBA.com. That’s down from 24th in the league last season, just hundredths of a percent away from the top 20.
Coach Dwane Casey has attributed the defensive woes to inexperience and needing to learn. That reminds me the quote made popular by the Going to Work team. They often credited “learning to play the right way” as a major key to their success.
But one thing that was never questioned? Their effort. Fans and observers have heard their whisper from early in the season swell into loud frustration. Especially when you don’t control what you can. The Pistons also missed free throws down the stretch that could’ve helped seal the game.
The hope many fans had to start this season, has been marred. Injuries to players like star Cade Cunningham, who remains out for the season, and Marvin Bagley have been huge factors.
When assessing the roster, it’s clear they have holes to fill. The most glaring needs being a lock down wing, and a bruiser big man off the bench.
The team has a different view of what the issues are behind their defensive and end game let downs.
Dwane Casey: “…On Us To Learn How To Win Games.”
In the high scoring NBA, defensive prowess has become more situational. Knowing how to lock down when it’s time, has become a necessity. Especially how offensive players are refereed, with the NBA opting for a less physical brand of defense.
On the other end of the spectrum, they have had a difficult time closing out games without Cade Cunningham. The missed free throws don’t help, but he was one of the more reliable late game scorers last season. In games with Cunningham the Detroit Pistons had 10-14 record after the all star break. In a season where they had 23 wins all season, it further proves how big a loss Cunningham really has been.
Cade Cunningham has scored 106 points in the clutch this season. No other player has more than 63.
So in his absence is where Casey is saying it’s something his young, Cunningham-less team has to learn.
“We have to learn how to win…We’re putting ourselves in a position to win, but it’s some of the decisions we’re making down the stretch. We have to continue to work, press offense, clock management. All those things we’re learning right now and tonight it hurt, and it should hurt because those guys played their hearts out to put themselves in a position to win.”
Isaiah Stewart: “As Players We Have To Be Better.”
Someone is going to have to step up. Offensively, I actually think Killian Hayes should press to take on more of a decided scoring role down the stretch of games. I understand it may look rough at times, but his game meshes better into the role Cade played. And in stretches, Hayes has proven capable. I will have an article detailing such coming soon.
But if this team is truly restoring to past great Pistons’ teams, then they need a defensive leader. A vocal one not afraid to call out their issues, AND hold teammates accountable.
This is where I hope Isaiah Stewart takes his biggest leap forward this season. Many have been enamored at the development of Stewart shooting threes and his offensive game. He finished with twenty one points, two blocks and seven rebounds while going 3 of 4 from behind the arc. But the most important growth in his game, will be in how he leads this team defensively.
After the loss to the Clippers, Stewart put the blame on he and his teammates. Not the coaching staff. He eluded to the fact they know what to do, they just have to execute.
“It’s not on the coaches,” Stewart said. “We have to put that on us. As players we have to be better. We’re smart enough to know how to finish the game. Definitely not a good gut feeling.”
And he went on further to even call out the teams effort, or inability to close out the game due to focus.
“I feel like we definitely didn’t execute and do what we were supposed to. Definitely a little lackadaisical in my eyes. If we have a 14-point lead, we have to go out and finish.”
Losing for a lack of attention is simply inexcusable for a team that won’t win many games this season. Observers aren’t expecting a trip to the playoffs, but they do hope to see a team that fights and claws each and every possession.
That’s why I love Stewart’s comments. Personal accountability, and desire to control his own destiny. Everyone has a role to play in a win, and blame to take in a loss. But Stewart is proving to be the type of player leaders are cut from.
With the Pistons next three opponents all with records under .500, it’s a better opportunity to prove it’s simply a matter of execution and focus.
The Detroit Pistons play the Orlando Magic Wednesday, December 28th, at 7PM.
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