Pistons paying the price for slow starts to each half
Detroit — The old saying is that the way a team starts is the way it finishes. That’s been true at times for the Pistons, but not in a good way.
Their starts haven’t been good in the first and third quarters of many games, leaving them with a hole to dig out of in both halves, which makes their task increasingly harder when they don’t have a full complement of players and they’re not playing well, in general.
Coming out of halftime with the same as they’ve finished the second quarters is part of the issue. The Pistons have a scoring differential of minus-2.5 points in third quarter. It’s the lowest-scoring of any period (24.7 points), by 1.4 points.
In a bigger sense, it’s a problem with the second half as a whole, as the Pistons combine for 50.8 points in the final two periods, compared to 56.2 in the first half.
Coach Dwane Casey recognizes the issue, but there’s no easy fix in changing the starting lineup for either half. There have been some instances of swapping a player into the lineup to start the third quarter, but it’s unlikely to become a regular occurrence.
“It’s one game where we have a good third quarter and the next game where we will have a bad third quarter,” Casey said. “It wasn’t just the third quarter (Wednesday); it was the start of the game. We were down 11-2 and then 10-0 (in the third quarter). That’s the ball game in a one-possession game.
“It’s about our professional pride that we have in ourselves to get out of the gates quickly.”
The first quarters aren’t as much of an issue, as the Pistons score 29.1 points, just 0.2 points fewer than they give up. They’ve had some slow starts to games but it’s having to do it twice, in the opening period of each half, that becomes the more difficult task.
Casey made an adjustment Friday, using Tony Snell to start the third quarter, after having Langston Galloway open the game. Galloway, who had scored in double figures for 14 straight games but missed his only shot attempt in the first half.
Snell had hit three 3-pointers in the first half, in just his second game back from a hip flexor injury that had sidelined him for four games.
“Whether at halftime, we shorten halftime to get guys out and get loose, but we have to have a little more pride coming out of the locker room than we had in our last game. I thought we had it a little bit better coming out of the Orlando game but we have to get consistent with it.”
The play that stood out in Wednesday’s loss was Andre Drummond bringing the ball up the court after a rebound and the Hornets’ Terry Rozier getting a steal that led to a critical 3-pointer. Having Drummond handle the ball more in the offense, including initiating the offense in the backcourt, has been an addition to his repertoire this year.
In that case, it was a confluence of events that helped turn the tide of the game. It wasn’t a mistake only on Drummond’s part, though.
“The one thing we have to do in late-game situations and the fourth quarter, our point guards have to come back,” Casey said. “They can’t run off and leave him. In Andre’s defense, they went off and left him with the ball and you can’t do that in the fourth quarter.
“You have to make sure you come back and get the ball and not leave him down there by himself.”
Drummond has handled the ball more in the halfcourt and has gotten to the rim on his own but the turnovers are a pock mark this season, as they’ve come at some inopportune times. Rozier had fallen down on the play and it looked like Drummond didn’t see him, but also didn’t pass the ball ahead to Blake Griffin or Derrick Rose, who were ahead of him.
Figuring out what to do in those situations is the next adjustment.
“We talked about that and what we want to do in those situations and when we want him to bring it down in dribble-handoff. Blake and Draymond Green do a good job of it and what we’re trying to develop Andre into is that guy who can be a quasi-point guard at the top of the floor,” Casey said. “There are certain situations he can’t bring it down and we don’t want him to bring it down. It’s unfortunate that it happened the other night but that’s not what we want in that situation.”