Talk about defensive concepts, small ball and advanced stats all you want, but basketball is a game of startling simplicity.
It’s all about putting the ball in the basket and despite all the teeth-gnashing about Reggie Jackson, Andre Drummond and Stan Van Gundy’s coaching from the fan base, bad shooting is a main factor in the Detroit Pistons’ fall from the playoffs this season.
It’s a fact Van Gundy has acknowledged and he brought up the subject again when wryly talking about the team’s blazing 14-for-28 performance from the three-point line in Sunday’s 103-90 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies at FedEx Forum.
And when you look at what the NBA has become, the Pistons won’t have a chance next season unless the lack of shooting is addressed in-house or they bring in shooters not currently on the roster.
“You have to be able to shoot the ball and obviously that’s been a major issue with us and one that through development or whatever we do with our roster, has got to change next year,” said Van Gundy, who is also the team president in charge of player personnel.
The Pistons are 28th in three-point shooting percentage and last in true-shooting percentage.
At 37-43, the Pistons were eliminated from the playoff race Saturday night, highlighting their struggles.
Van Gundy noted the correlation between shooting and winning, noting the three-point shooting percentages of the playoff teams with home-court advantage.
The best teams shoot it well.
“We were playing hard, but the ball’s got to go in and we finally started making some shots,” Van Gundy said of the 11-for-17 three-point performance in the second half.
“The whole game looks different when the ball goes in the basket.”
The three-point barrage might be a case of too little, too late, but it was the best defensive stand in weeks that took control in the third quarter with the reserves taking care of the rest in the fourth quarter when it turned into a battle of B-teams.
The Pistons held the Grizzlies to 10 points and 23% shooting in the third quarter.
The Pistons had six players score in double figures.
Reggie Bullock led the way by scoring eight of his 14 points in the third quarter when the Pistons held the Grizzlies to 23.1% shooting.
“We made that run against their main guys, that was the impressive part,” Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy said. “Obviously (Grizzlies coach David Fizdale) shut it down and we played younger guys against younger guys, but in the third quarter that run was made against their main guys, their starters, so that was the impressive part to me.”
Darrun Hilliard scored 12 of 14 points in the fourth quarter
Boban Marjanovic scored 14 points and Henry Ellenson scored nine points on three three-pointers. He nailed two in a row in the fourth quarter to stretch the Pistons' lead to 94-84 with 4:09 remaining.
Henry Ellenson and Boban Marjanovic were on the floor in the fourth quarter when the Pistons pulled away from the Grizzlies on Sunday, April 9, 2017. Video by Vince Ellis, DFP. Videolicious
Ellenson is averaging 10 rebounds per game in the past two games with Van Gundy giving him extended minutes.
But he wasn’t shooting well until a 3-for-5 second half from downtown. Van Gundy joked that he liked the way Ellenson was playing, but it looked like he was joining the team’s shooting woes.
So the marksmanship was welcome.
“My shot felt real good tonight, but early on the shots were in and out,” Ellenson said. “Guys kept feeding me open ones, giving me the confidence to shoot the next one.
“It was nice to get those threes up late in the game and I thought the way we closed out as a team was real big. Everyone hitting shots, everyone moving the ball around. That was a lot of fun.”
All ten Pistons that received playing time scored at least five points, as the team was 14-for-28 from three-point range.
Mike Conley scored 15 points for the Grizzlies, who are seventh in the Western Conference and assured a first-round playoff matchup against San Antonio.
The Grizzlies (43-38) took a 57-48 lead at halftime behind hot three-point shooting.
The Grizzlies shot 8-for-15 from deep with JaMychal Green and Vince Carter both going 2-for-2.