Film Review: How to Get Squashed Like A Bug.

The Pistons came back to earth in a big way against the Celtics. After starting off 4-1, they got slaughtered by the Boston Celtics in Detroit by a score of 109 - 89 and it was worse than that for most of the night.

What on earth happened to Blake Griffin in this game?

Yeah it was by far his worst game of the season, which was going to happen at some point and it makes sense to happen against such a good defensive team as the Celtics. Part of it was simple regression to the mean, Griffin missed all 4 of his deep shots after shooting over 60% from deep in the first 4 games (he is still over 50% on the season lol) and that was going to come down regardless of defense.

That said, the Celtics smothered him with defense and the Pistons had no answers.

There’s a few things to point out here that Griffin is facing that he didn’t really in the first 4 games. First off, the Celtics sent extra guys at him all night. Other than the Cavaliers, who are so bad defensively that their double-teams were very hit and miss, Griffin has not faced a ton of double-teams or even shades toward him.

This isn’t a huge surprise, post-ups, even from elite players, are usually very ineffective. One of the best ways for them to be effective is if you toss double-teams at them and allow a good passer to pass out of them to open shooters. As such, teams were willing to let Griffin go at people one on one and hope for the best.

The Celtics didn’t do anything revolutionary, but it was well-thought and highly effective. We’ve got 3 clips to show it (and could’ve had plenty more.)

On this play, Griffin actually draws a foul, but it’s a non-shooting foul. This play shows exactly how the Celtics played him almost the entire night. First off, they played him close all the way from the hoop. Tatum is up on Griffin outside the three-point line. This isn’t because Griffin is such an elite shooter that they are terrified of giving him space (although given how he’s shot this season that wouldn’t be crazy) it is because they want him away from the hoop as much as possible.

The Celtics played Griffin incredibly physically and close even in the mid-range. Once again, this isn’t because Griffin is such a good shooter that they don’t want him to get shots off, it’s actually the opposite.

Griffin has almost totally removed mid-range shots from his game this season (a credit to Dwane Casey) which is good. The problem is that the Celtics know he has no interest in shooting from those areas unless he is wide open, so they can get up in him, play him super-physical, and even if they do get called for fouls they won’t be shooting fouls since Griffin won’t ever be shooting in these areas.

The benefit is that they will not call fouls every time, Griffin will have to work super-hard to even get the ball, and he won’t ever get in the paint.

Once again, Smart is all the way out on Griffin at the three-point line. Plays super physical, and when Griffin gets into the paint they all close in. There should’ve absolutely been a foul here, but they didn’t call it, because refs rarely are going to call it every time.

Once again, fronting far from the hoop, double-team (that totally ignores Stanley Johnson) and play physical with him.

It frustrated Griffin, and especially when Drummond left the game with early foul-trouble, the Celtics simply overplayed Griffin and kept him from the paint. Griffin could’ve helped himself by hitting a couple more shots, but this was great by the Celtics.

The biggest thing to remember here is that the Celtics do this to a lot of teams, they are overflowing with long and tough defenders to toss at guys, most teams who would try and do this would fail because the gaps would be bigger and Blake wouldn’t have to work as hard.

What about the Celtics offense? They killed the Pistons?

Honestly there isn’t a whole lot to analyze here. The Pistons don’t have a ton of speed on the defensive end of the floor and they’ve been slow to make rotations on top of that. The Celtics simply passed the ball until the Pistons fell behind.

I could probably show you a couple dozen of clips like this. Blake Griffin is terrible at closing out onto shooters, Reggie Jackson is kind of slow even when he’s trying hard, Reggie Bullock and Langston Galloway get killed by screens a lot and are not always focused. Stanley Johnson is awesome, and Andre Drummond can be, but Drummond has been tethered to the pain this year (and in that clip, obviously Zaza is slower than dial-up internet) so he isn’t going out on shooters.

This will probably be a trend all season and there isn’t much to be done about it. The Pistons will probably be a below-average defensive team because they don’t have very many good defenders, just that simple.

What about Andre Drummond? Only 8 rebounds against this Celtic team? They are tiny?

Yeah about that.

Now, could Drummond do a better job of trying to really assert himself when, say, Gordon Hayward is trying to box him out? Absolutely. He needs to be more willing to bash his way into better position instead of just trying to out-jump people. That said, those two clips were the entire night. The Celtics gang-rebounded to keep Drummond (and Griffin) out of it.

Look for Drummond to be more determined in their next meeting, but even then he will have a tough ask to beat those kind of numbers.

So the Celtics are just really good?

Yep. I mean, look at this crap.

Like, there’s no scheme there lol. Bullock totally gets Tatum with the cut, Tatum is just so long and athletic that he catches up and swats it. This happened a few other times in this game to various guys. I remain not a fan of some of Dwane Casey’s schematic decisions and the Pistons have work to do, but I’m truthfully not sure how you are supposed to build a good offensive game against the Celtics when they are this locked in defensively.

So are there any good things here?

Yes there were a few.

First off, this is a bigger-picture thing, but watch this.

This is not some super-impressive play, but it is great to see Jackson doing this. And if you are thinking “Still not 100% Gordon Hayward ain’t exactly locking dudes down.” Here is one from the Sixers game against Robert Covington who was 1st team all-defense last year.

These plays are great to see. Even last year, Jackson was not showing much of his old explosion, rarely was he able to just go around guys. He’s done it with regularity in the first few games of this season. I’m not sure he will ever get quite as explosive as he was when he first came to Detroit, but he looks totally healthy and springy. Which is very important for Detroit’s long-term outlook.

He even has looked more spry on defense, continuing his trend of actually trying on that end from last year.

Look at my man dodging screens and chasing Kyrie Irving around. Blake Griffin has gotten most of the attention in the early going (rightfully so) but Jackson’s health looks to be great right now as well.

Stanley played pretty well.

Yeah he did someone better go wake up Ku. The biggest thing is that he officially has to be allowed to get out in transition more, just look at this.

I’ve continued to say, that the problem with Stanley has not been the situations he’s put in. It’s that no matter what situations you put him in and no matter what shots you get him, he misses. We officially have at least one thing Stanley Johnson can do on offense to bring value and it’s by charging in transition.

I’m not sure if the answer is to bring him off the bench, he started to really show this sort of thing off the bench last year, or even just play him more with bench units. Maybe just tell him to do it more, maybe just separate him from Blake Griffin more since Blake likes to handle the ball in transition. Whatever it is, Stanley needs to get out an run with the ball.

Lastly on Stanley, I’ve brought up before that he’s looked less good this season because the Pistons haven’t really come up against elite wing-players yet, and that when they do we will all be thankful for Stanley. The Celtics didn’t end up needing Tatum, but he scored just 6 points on 10 shot equivalents and plays like this are why.

Stanley Johnson is a joy to watch on defense.

Anything else?

Yeah one last thing. Why on earth would you not run this for a three??

I’m not sure if the blame should be on the play design and Casey or on Galloway for not running all the way out but what on earth.

Anyways, a blowout, hopefully the next game against them goes better.