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Pistons’ turnovers beget fear of turnovers, which begets more turnovers

The Pistons have turned the ball over too much this season, but they’re letting that problem force them into either more turnovers or bad shots.

That was especially evident against the Memphis Grizzlies, one my favorite teams to watch, and their tough defense. The Pistons made a push in the third quarter, but the Grizzlies countered with great defense. Mike Conley had just missed two free throws, and the Pistons were in a sturm-und-drang phase (Ed: Sturm und Drang was an 18th-century movement in German art, and Jakob, a German, apparently knows what that it is. I do not.) and could have come within eight points.


Walker Russell receives the outlet and makes a push for the an easy lay-in. Conley is quick to get back on defense, which gives him a good position to defend the play.


Although Russell is really fast, Conley is quick himself and stays in front of his man to prevent the fastbreak. Russell has to abort the transition look, and the Pistons get another look at the superb Memphis halfcourt defense.


After Russell swings the ball to Tayshaun Prince, he cuts through the lane on the other side in order to create space for the Greg Monroe-Prince pick-and-roll. The pick is not even set when Gasol starts to make the move to show hard on the screen – well, at least as hard as a 7-footer can show.


Even though Prince is quick and has long arms and above-average court vision, he can’t drive past Gasol or hit Monroe with the pass. Mayo covers the corner 3-pointer, and all other scoring angles are shut down as well. Notice how Josh Davis has positioned himself to bother Monroe catching a pass. He’s not in position to deflect it, but he is aware of his responsibility on the weak side. The only available pass is a long pass to Jonas Jerebko behind the 3-point arc. I’m pretty sure that is the shot Lionel Hollins wants his team to give up.


Even though Jerebko is wide open and is shooting 33 percent on the season, he chooses to make the extra pass to Russell. Monroe is already fighting hard on the inside to get good post position. Additionally, look where Conley and Davis are standing. They are relatively far away from the ball in this situation.


A split second later, they are right where the action is. Memphis’ close-outs are supreme. If I wanted my team to learn how to properly close out, I would simply show them Grizzlies tapes. They close out hard and with a huge step, all the while having perfect control over their bodies. Monroe actually has perfect position on Gasol, but Russell fails to get him the ball. Maybe it is a lack of time spent with the team or the general inability of the team to get Monroe more touches, but Russell took Jerebko’s pick. Monroe was furious after the play ended!


Now, Russell does not have position to score. He can either swing the ball to Prince or pass it back Jerebko, because Gasol has recovered on Monroe.


Russell passes the ball back to Jerebko. Jerebko passes up another shot for the pumpfake. Monroe is guarded by Conley, which is quite a mismatch, but once again, Monroe doesn’t get the ball.


Instead, Jerebko passes it back to Russell! Meanwhile, Monroe gets called for a three-second violation.

The Pistons burnt six seconds off the clock in order to have two guys pass the ball back and forth. Monroe was wide open twice!

Memphis intensity during that play was great, and I strongly believe Detroit failed to get the ball inside because the players were afraid of deflections or turnovers.


  • Jan 23, 20122:40 am
    by frankie d


    prince is long and quick and he has excellent court vision.
    however, he does not make the kind of quick decisions that a good pick and roll man must make.  prince always hesitates for a second or half second, and in that brief time, opportunities disappear.  he is often in perfect position to make a pass to an open man, but he will not take a slight risk in order to make that pass and he’ll simply hold onto the ball and look for a play or pass that will be 100% safe.  a good pick and roll man will make passes that might be risky and will make a turnover every once in a while as a result.  prince will never make that risky pass, so he is not a good pick and roll man.
    in fact, i think i recall that specific play you’ve diagramed, and if i remember correctly, monroe was open for a split second, but tay did not get the ball to him.  (monroe may have been mad about that also.)   you can see the passing lane opening up, in the pic, as monroe has an open lane right down the lane, but tay would not throw the pass.  
    his innate caution makes his ballhandling and vision and length and passing skills almost non-factors as he rarely, if ever, challenges a defense with those attributes.   if he was less risk-adverse, he could be a great point forward.  as it is, he always makes the 100 % safe pass or shot and that always makes it easier on the defense.

  • Jan 23, 20127:53 am
    by Jakob Eich


    I agree with your opinion that Prince tends to play safer passes. Then again we are so turnover prone, we don’t really need Prince to make a high-risk moves. At this stage of the Pistons season I prefer them to run the sets as long as possible and really get Frank’s system instead of taking the first shot available. In this instance we didn’t run a specific play though, at least not at the end Fact is, Monroe was open two to three times during that possession and didn’t get the ball. So instead of getting a lay-up we had yet another turnover. A risky pass might give us a turnover, but not shooting at all will result in a turnover as well. I highly doubt that Frank wants the wings to pass the ball back and forth while Monroe is in potential scoring position. Tay won’t change his ways now in his career, but I expect JJ and WRJ to do better.

  • Jan 23, 20128:41 am
    by Steve K


    Great diagram.

    Pretty informative on how the Pistons try… but are simply out-talented, out-coached, and out-matched. Much of that has to do with familiarity (as with Russell not sensing Monroe’s positioning), but it’s also true that Tay is not a great pick-and-roll man. Tay is and will always be Mr. “Isolayshaun”.

    What was maddening about that Memphis game was Monroe catching Stuckeyitis. He just couldn’t finish at the rim. So many of his shots just barely rimmed out. It was maddening for fans… I can only imagine how maddening it was for him. A few more buckets from Monroe and that 3rd quarter becomes significantly more interesting. 

    Fairly worthless week coming up for Piston fans. They’ll be swimming out of their depth with games against OKC, Miami, and Atlanta. Here’s hoping they at least compete.

  • Jan 23, 20129:35 am
    by vic


    what was great last week was watching Ricky Rubio make those quick bounce passes without hesitation.   I think walker D. Russell will help teach our team how to pass a little better, especially once he gets used to the offense.   another solution is that Lawrence Frank needs to demand that those passes be made, and open shots be taken. there is too much fear in our offense.

    • Jan 23, 20129:45 am
      by Jakob Eich


      I actually wanted to do a piece on Rubio but unfortunately didn’t have the time. I’ll try the next time we play the Wolves (not sure if we do this season). I loved when Rubio hit the tying three against the Clippers because he smiled while shooting. I think that’s great, he’s just having fun out there!

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