One of Those Nights

Frank focused on perimeter defense after Pistons surrender 11 triples

Lawrence Frank is focused on defense.
J. Dennis/Einstein (NBAE/Getty)
The Pistons won’t be a prolific 3-point shooting team this season – their roster just isn’t set up for it – but they hope to be an efficient one. Among their starters, only Brandon Knight is more than an infrequent 3-point shooter, though Rodney Stuckey had his best season from the arc a year ago and hopes to continue to progress. Off their bench, Charlie Villanueva and Austin Daye would represent a 3-point threat … if they can crack the rotation. Ditto for rookies Kim English and Khris Middleton.

They can win without beating the opposition from the 3-point line, of course, but they probably aren’t going to win many games when they get outscored 33-0 from behind the arc. Astoundingly, that was the blueprint in Wednesday’s preseason opener.

If you see the glass as half full, it speaks well of the totality of their game that they could spot Toronto 33 points and win anyway. If the glass is half empty, the combination of leaky perimeter defense and impotent perimeter offense is likely toxic to their chances to mount a playoff challenge.

“Hey, I don’t shoot threes,” Greg Monroe laughed about the 0 of 13. “The thing is, I don’t remember any bad ones. Those guys are going to make shots. I’m not worried about that. They were very good looks. They were shots we were supposed to take. Those shots are going to fall.”

Lawrence Frank is of a like mind. He’s not really going to fret the offensive showing as much as he will allowing Toronto to make 11 triples in 25 attempts, including 11-of-20 before missing all five fourth-quarter tries.

Frank had it broken down after Thursday’s practice and before the Pistons headed to Toronto for Friday’s rematch and the start of a weekend back-to-back set that finishes at Milwaukee. Five of the Raptors’ 3-pointers came because the Pistons allowed their middle to be penetrated. Nine came as a result of improper closeouts on noted 3-point shooters. Two more came because of poor offensive execution.

“How we got ’em,” Frank said, “we’ve got to be better at that.”

The misses at the other end? Frank has a pretty simple philosophy.

“If it’s your shot, shoot it,” he said. “And if it’s not your shot, don’t. Usually, guys shoot a much higher percentage when they’re in rhythm, feet are set, not against the shot clock and it’s rehearsed.

“Sometimes, it’s a make-or-miss league. Sometimes we could have made an extra penetration, an extra pass. Not because they weren’t good shots, just because of what had happened the prior possessions. Three straight jump shots? We’ve got to attack. We can’t settle. But some were good shots. We practice them every day. Just as long as they’re rhythm shots, we’ve just got to let ’em fly.

All things considered, Frank saw plenty to like about the opener.

“Our preparation was very good,” he said. “From the night before to the shootaround to how we approached everything we did until they threw the ball up. We’re a team that struggled in the first quarter last year. I really liked our first quarter – our energy, effort. We did some good things on both ends. We had 12 assists in that first quarter. We played at a very, very good pace. Everything (scored) was in the paint other than (Jason Maxiell’s) jumper.

“On the boards, we did a very good job. The game within the game, we did a very good job. First play of each quarter, end of the quarter, after timeouts, sideline out of bounds, first three minutes, last three minutes – the game within the game – we did a nice job.”

Frank says that the players who didn’t play at all or not much – Kim English, Khris Middleton, Slava Kravtsov, Jonny Flynn and Terrence Williams didn’t play and Kyle Singler played only the last six minutes – will all be a part of the playing rotation at some point in the two weekend games

“We’ll mix and match,” he said. “These first three games, give guys different, solid looks. It won’t be equal minutes. You can’t do that. But it will be enough sizable chunks to form an evaluation on each player.”