I came pretty close to writing an article centred around Blake Griffin over the past month. He was in perhaps career-best form, but throughout his personal tear, the Pistons couldn’t find their mojo. Then, before every NBA player took a week off in February, the Detroit Pistons signed Wayne Ellington. He clearly isn’t viewed as Superman and yet, the sharpshooter landing in Motown has Detroit on the verge of a playoff berth after missing out on postseason action in eight of the last 10 seasons.
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11.7 points per game might not sound like a season-altering contribution, but that’s just one number the Wayne Ellington adds to this Pistons line-up. They’ve cooled recently, but Detroit came out of the break as one of the hottest teams in the league. In games played since the All-Star weekend, the Pistons own the second highest offensive rating (115.3) a shade behind the Trailblazers. To put it into context, before the break Detroit owned the 23rd best offense, obviously taking a huge jump in production.
THE biggest number behind their success has been their shooting behind the arc. Detroit was miserable making three-pointers over their first two-thirds of the year, making just 33.8% of their attempts. Only the Knicks and the Suns owned worse percentages. However, that’s where Ellington came in. Since joining the squad he is hitting an unreal 44.1% of his three’s, which has seen the Pistons turn their season around. In the past 19 games they’ve featured in, Dwane Casey’s mob has converted a whopping 39.0% of three-point tries, bested only by conference powerhouse Toronto. Having Ellington’s presence on the court has opened up avenues for other Piston’s to score and in turn win more ball games.
NOW it’s important to note, that as good as Ellington’s shooting has been for this club, Casey has helped to unlock a winning unit over the past few weeks. Reggie Jackson, Langston Galloway and Ish Smith have all increased their PPG averages and Luke Kennard has stepped up in a big way since Reggie Bullock was traded. It’s all coincided, ironically, with Blake Griffin’s shooting numbers taking a tumble and with just seven games left on their regular season schedule, they still have everything to play for.
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LOSING three of their last four matches on a tough West coast road trip has put the 38-37 Pistons in a precarious position. The next week will define their season starting with a contest against a Portland team eager to stay on track, despite the devastating loss of big man Jusuf Nurkic to a broken leg. Following that, a home-and-home matchup against the Indiana Pacers awaits, who will be eager to improve their own seeding, before wrapping up the week by facing OKC on the road. If they survive the gauntlet against those four opponents, things get a bit easier to end their year. A 1-3 or 0-4 stretch against those playoff-bound teams would see the likes of Orlando and Miami get hopefully of stealing Detroit’s place in the postseason.
CURRENTLY sitting in the sixth seed out East, the Pistons need just two more victories to lock up 40 W’s for just the second time since the 07-08 season. 11 years ago Detroit used their stellar defense to reach the Conference Finals, but this year to continue their surge towards playoff action, they’ll need to lean on their success from behind the arc and new hero Wayne Ellington. Blake Griffin’s play will dictate how far Detroit can go once they qualify for the playoffs, but there’s no doubt that a hot-handed Ellington could propel them to a few wins in the next seven days and ensure their season doesn’t go to waste.
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