Last week the Pistons took down the Knicks 115-108 with the help of a strong game from Blake Griffin. But I found a lot of takeaways on the defensive end, where Detroit ranks 9th under Dwane Casey. I’ll be looking at how they defended the PNR, as even though the Knicks aren’t world beaters with the two-man game, they still have weapons just like any other team.
Having bigs like Griffin, Drummond, and Zaza, it makes that Casey would employ a conservative drop coverage in the PNR. It also helps that the Knicks don’t have tons of ball handling or shooting.
A drop coverage is exactly what it sounds like—the big defending in the PNR drops below the level of the screen (distances can vary based on opponent personnel) in order to contain the drive and the roll. It can however be susceptible to shooters and/or quick guards.
Here Mitchell Robinson sets a screen for Trey Burke; Ish and Zaza defend. Zaza drops, Ish goes over the screen. Together, they do a good job containing the ball, and Robinson who is rolling gets covered on the tag by Stanley Johnson. They force Burke into a contested long two, widely known to be the most inefficient shot in the game. Great defense.
It’s the same offensive duo for New York here, and this time Zaza is paired with Galloway. Zaza again drops as Galloway goes over the screen. Mitchell has more space to roll, necessitating Johnson to rotate over to tag him. Notice that while they do give up a decent look from the corner, Johnson still gets a solid contest and Knox was only shooting 33% from 3 going into this game. Another example of good Detroit defense.
Burke and Mitchell now face off against Blake and Ish here. Blake drops, Ish goes over. Mitchell rolls hard, so Galloway and Bullock sink in to help. As all of this happens, Frank Ntilikina shakes, meaning he lifts along the 3pt arc to re-space the floor. Because the defense is sinking in, it makes sense to attempt to spread them right back out. This is a smart play by Ntilikina, but Galloway closes out strong and forces the travel.
Here we see a new pairing with a Hezonja/Kanter PNR defended by Galloway/Drummond. Drummond drops to near the FT line and Galloway goes under the screen and does a good job stopping the ball. To counter the drop, Kanter pops, requiring Drummond to close out hard. He does a decent job sliding his feet but Kanter makes a good move and finishes for two. However, I think that’s a two points you’re okay with giving up.
Casey’s teams have always been solid defensively, and even though it’s early, this Detroit team seems to be no different. Scheme is extremely important and these Pistons are executing it well so far.