Monday, January 5, 2015

Weekly Preview: 1/4/2015 (1/2)

Record: 10-23 | Streak: Won five | Off. Eff.: 102.7 (25th ▲)| Def. Eff.: 105.8 (14th ▲)

We enter this week on FULL ALERT mode.  The Pistons are 5-0 since waiving Josh Smith on December 22nd, and now sit only four games back of Miami for the 8th seed in the Eastern Conference.  With the exception of a Cavs team in a rut, Detroit has feasted on teams with losing records.  That notion is somewhat mitigated by the fact that their closest win during the stretch is a 10-point victor over the Pacers.  Nonetheless, this week will be a test of what the Pistons are really made of.  Detroit's next three opponents are all over the 20-win mark.  Beating any one of the three, especially with two road games in Texas, would give the Pistons a signature victory that would almost certainly fuel the playoff hopes of Pistons fans.

The Pistons have only scored below 100 points once in their last eight games, that one occasion being a 97-81 victory over the hopeless Knicks, in which the Pistons went on auto-pilot for the 4th quarter.  The Pistons' defense, much like the offense, is nearly a whole two points better per 100 possessions since Smith was let go.  They'll need to keep the good vibes going at both ends to hold serve against the league's elite this week.

Click "Read More" for a preview of Detroit's games this week...

Monday, December 29, 2014

Weekly Preview: 12/28/14

Record: 7-23 | Streak: Won two | Off. Eff.: 101.8 (26th ▲)| Def. Eff.: 107.0 (20th ▲)

The Pistons enter the final week of 2014 and the first week of 2015 on what is, surprisingly, their third two-game winning streak of the season.  They're also the team's two most impressive wins of the year, having thoroughly beaten the Pacers and crushed the Cavaliers.  For the first time of the year, in my opinion, there is actually a positive vibe around the team.  It's certainly no guarantee that the good feelings are going to last, but it looks like the removal of Josh Smith from the roster has pointed the team in the right direction for the time being.  The offense is moving much more effectively, having scored 119 points against the league's 6th-ranked defense and broken the franchise record for made three-pointers in the win over Cleveland.

Jodie Meeks is a big part of that offensive improvement, having scored in double figures in three consecutive games now.  Meeks has a 16.9 PER and 57.0 TS% through his 8 games (small sample, no doubt), offering stability at the SG position.  Meeks' return also appears to have had a positive effect on the play of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who no longer is forced to log obscene minutes as the only true SG on the roster.  Since Meeks' return, KCP has only played more than 30 minutes in one game, a noticeable feature for a player who had topped 35 minutes eight times in Detroit's first 22 games.  Playing reduced minutes, KCP is averaging 13 PPG on 44% shooting, including 43% shooting from behind the arc.  While KCP's raw production of 13 PPG isn't much of an increase on his 12.6 PPG for the season, when you consider his reduced minutes, it's much  more evident that the return of Meeks has been good for the sophomore SG.  Sustaining the improved efficiency is now the key, both to Caldwell-Pope's development and the Pistons' success.

Click "Read More" for a preview of Detroit's games this week...

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Weekly Recap: 12/21/14

* The idea is to get these out on Saturday nights with the previews coming on Sundays.  As I get back in the regular swing of things, the previews and recaps will hopefully be on a regular schedule.

Record: 7-23 | Streak: Won two | Off. Efficiency: 101.5 (26th) | Def. Efficiency: 108.0 (23rd)

The Pistons entered the week with much uncertainty about how waiving Josh Smith would affect the team's play.  While it was reasonable to assume that cutting the offensive cancer out would improve the team's efficiency, I don't think anybody saw such massive improvements coming.  The Pistons upped their offensive efficiency by almost a full point per 100 possessions in just two games.  They also throttled a really good defense and the team that many assumed would win the Eastern Conference.  Against the Pacers, the Pistons upped their season-high for scoring by 13 points and against the Cavaliers, the team set a franchise-high for three pointers made in a game.  Good times are here, at least for a few days, which is the first time you can say that about the Pistons in a long time.  

Pistons 119 Pacers 109

The first game without Josh Smith proved to be the most fun the Pistons (and their fans) have had since...well..Josh Smith was signed.  The offense had a flow to it that was clearly lacking in the last year-plus, which resulted in the Pistons eclipsing the 50% shooting mark for the first time all year.  Detroit matched 25 assists with 9 turnovers, made 10 of their 26 threes and hit 62% of their two-point looks.  That number was propped up by what was an offensive break-out game for Andre Drummond.  Matched up against defensive stalwart Roy Hibbert, Drummond displayed a jump-hook that was practically unguardable, en route to 20 points on 9-12 shooting.  Greg Monroe joined Drummond with a stellar night of his own, posting 19 points and 15 rebounds.  The PG duo of Jennings and Augustin did their part as well, combining for 28 points and 18 assists on 60% shooting, with only two turnovers to boot.  This was arguably the best game of Augustin's Pistons career, and more nights like this would be a great boost for the bench crew.

Pistons 103 Cavaliers 80

The Pistons followed a thorough beating of the Pacers by absolutely whomping the Cavaliers on their own court.  After falling behind by double digits in the first nine minutes and trailing 28-17 through one quarter, the Pistons rose up and crushed the Cavs in the remaining 36 minutes, just as everybody expected them to.  The Pistons rode a hot shooting afternoon to victory, connecting on a franchise-high 17 three-pointers.  Brandon Jennings hit five of his own and KCP and Jodie Meeks each hit three.  The Pistons' hot shooting matched up with a horrid afternoon for the Cavs, as Cleveland finished 31-82 (37.8%) from the field and 5-29 (17.2%) from three.  LeBron James filled the stat sheet, for good and bad, finishing with 17 points, 10 rebounds, 7 assists and 7 turnovers.  He was joined in inefficiency by Kevin Love, who finished with 20 points and 10 rebounds, but only shot 9-19 from the field, including 1-7 from three.  

Detroit got a dynamic performance from Brandon Jennings, who notched 25 points, 6 assists and 5 rebounds on 10-18 shooting.  Jennings showed what he's capable of on a day where his shot is falling, as he hit 5 of his 9 three-point attempts.  Andre Drummond followed his impressive offensive performance on Friday night with 16 points, 17 rebounds and 5 blocks.  KCP and Jodie Meeks chipped in from the perimeter with a combined 27 points on 10-17 shooting, including 6-11 from deep.  Jonas Jerebko, who saw his heaviest playing time of the season (28 minutes) on Friday night, followed up with 27 productive minutes off the bench on Sunday afternoon.  For the second consecutive game, Jerebko scored 10 points, to go with 8 rebounds.  His play offers hope that he may hold some type of trade value at the deadline, should the Pistons choose to go that route.  Either way, as long as he's in town, it appears Jerebko can help the Pistons' offense function.