By Geo Thomas… The Detroit Pistons are learning what playoff basketball is all about.
With the exception of Reggie Jackson, none of the Pistons have significant playoff experience (which includes zero playoff experience for the starters). Together, they must navigate obstacles that are amplified in the post season. Tougher defense, superstar calls (or lack thereof), pressure free throws and rowdier crowds are all standing in the way of a playoff series win.
As fans, we should be kicking and screaming about the call Lebron James gets on the court. We should be on our knees hoping Andre Drummond makes his free throws. And we should be louder than ever when the Pistons return home for game three of this series. But as students of the game, young players and their parents should also be looking at the elevated play on the court as an opportunity to improve our knowledge of the game.
Questions like “What is a good shot?” and “Why don’t we see more help defense?” The answers to these questions can truly elevate a player’s game or keep them in the doghouse if they get the answers wrong.
For example, in each of the first two playoff games, the Pistons started fast and built a double-digit point lead. In Game 2, they were up 17-7 and here were the shots taken on the next four possessions:
- 23-foot 3-point shot, missed (uncontested)
- Missed lay-up (contested, 1-on-2)
- Missed transition lay-up (contested)
By the Pistons fifth possession, their 10-point lead had been cut to 17-15. This is where being a student comes into the game comes into play. Lets look at each possession to see if it was the right move:
- 23-foot 3-point shot (uncontested), missed by Marcus Morris with 15 seconds left on the shot clock. Good shot or bad? Considering he was open and we had players in rebound position, probably not a bad shot. JR Smith hit a 3-pointer on the Cavs next possession to make it 17-13
- Reggie Jackson misses a lay-up with two defenders on him (15 on the shot clock). Coaches love aggressive play and since he is your best rim-attacker, maybe not a bad shot. However, Cleveland had a strong help-side defender and his shot was forced and too strong. KCP was open on the baseline so maybe not the best shot. Cleveland turned the ball over on their next possession.
- Reggie Jackson misses a transition lay-up with two defenders on him. After a solid defensive stop, Reggie pushed the ball and went 1-on-2 and missed poorly. Not a great choice since we could not convert the Cleveland turnover into points. LeBron James scored on the Cavs next possession, 17-15
- Andre Drummond loses the ball out of bounds with 18 on the shot clock and Detroit calls time out.
Although missed shots and turnovers will happen, what I see in these four possessions is that we only made Cleveland play 24 seconds of defense in four possessions and the Pistons went 0-3 with a turnover in those 24 seconds.
Obviously, that series was not the sole reason why the Pistons lost. Rather, if looked at constructively, could they have maximized their possessions better? Sure! But these are things that a young team -a young 8th seed team playing the defending Eastern Conference champions- must go through to better understand playoff basketball.
If you watch game three with your son or daughter, ask them about what you see. Questions like, “How did he get so wide open?” or “Was that a good shot?” just might help them be a better player the next time they take the court. GO PISTONS!