They make themselves easy to guard. The Pistons offense right now bears no resemblance to their offense from 2004 or 2005. It’s a fairly typical NBA offense. In the past, the Pistons had been the best in the league at getting into their sets, executing them to perfection, and somewhere along the way, ending up with a great look. Now, it’s a lot of individual play. That’s not the same as saying it’s selfish… it’s just pretty standard NBA fare. It seems like they’ll decide, “Okay, we’ll have Chauncey go to the basket,” or “We’ll feed Rasheed in the post,” and we’ll just let guys create off of that.
The end result is that they take a lot of shots that Larry Brown would’ve never tolerated. Just once in Game Five did they run a set where they moved the ball, made the extra pass, and got themselves a wide open dunk. In 2004 and 2005, it happened regularly. It was a more disciplined, efficient team then. Now, they settle for a lot of contested looks. You can get away with that in the regular season, because their talent dictates that they can, and in the regular season, no one’s really trying that hard. When the intensity’s turned up, though, things are different. And the effect of all of this is that unless they’re hitting shots from the outside, they’re a very average offensive team.
2) They’re not getting easy baskets. I can’t remember one fast break lay-up that the Pistons got… it may have happened, but if it did, it was a rare occasion. They’re not creating turnovers, blocking shots, and creating run-outs. And credit Cleveland for this, too… they’re taking good care of the ball. Eric Snow’s an underrated player, and they rarely make any risky passes. If they turn the ball over, it’s usually because LeBron hit someone with a pass who wasn’t ready for it.
And Kenny Smith made this point last night… the effort isn’t the same on defense as it used to be, because the Pistons think their path to victory is now through offense. Defense isn’t the same calling card it used to be. No one took a shot in the paint against the Pistons in the last couple of years without a swarm of arms in their face… and it seems pretty commonplace for the Cavs to just non-chalantly hit a little put-back shot here and there. That never used to happen.
So, to sum up… they’re not as good offensively as they once were (though they think they are), nor are they as good defensively. That’s usually not a good route to take… most of the time when an NBA GM calls me up and asks for advice and says, “Hey, should we get worse on both offense and defense,” I usually say no. Flip Saunders and I have a philosophical disagreement on that one.
The Pistons are not playing like the disciplined, defensive, intelligent group that earned them the reputation they’ve enjoyed up until now. But now, they’re playing like any old NBA team that’s coached by an average, run-of-the-mill head coach. Things run a lot smoother and easier with Flip. Sometimes, this is what smoother and easier gets you. Let’s call New York, offer to pay half of the $40 million, buy Larry Brown out, and pretend like the whole thing never happened.
And before wrapping up this post, let me apologize to Cavs fans for not crediting your team. I don’t intend to slight anyone, it’s just not how I watch Detroit games. I’m a Pistons fan, I watch them… no slight intended to the Cavs, they’re just not the subject of this post… this frustrated and emotional post. I’m going to go kick a dog.