My Detroit Sports: My Lions Report #3 (End of the Season)

It’s “Big Game” Sunday and Tom Brady hoists up the Vince Lombardi trophy. His 6th of his career. As sure as you can be about the New England Patriots being in or winning the Super Bowl, the same can be said about the Detroit Lions having another disappointing season.

The trade of beloved WR, Golden Tate signaled the Lions throwing in the towel for the 2018 season. Matthew Stafford, who earns a whopping $27 million dollars annually, struggling and a rookie coach showing up late to team meetings certainly added fuel to the fire. Detroit Lions ended their season at 6-10, that culminated in parting ways with OC Jim Bob Cooter.

While most fans agree that a rebuild is inevitable, tanking has never been in the cards for the Lions. Ask a roster that’s out there earning a living playing this dangerous game if they want to be the laughing stock of the NFL and tank. Ask a 10-year vet like Glover Quin if he wants to tank. Ask 2-time Pro Bowler, Darius Slay if he wants to tank. It’s a hard no.

Towards the end of the season, the Lions put up a valiant effort, post-Tate trade against eventual division winners, Chicago Bears in Week 12, losing, 23-16 (Recap). Another great effort against NFC Champions, Los Angeles Rams in Week 13, losing 30-16 (Recap).

Detroit’s MVP of the season, provided another BIG PLAY in an otherwise, lackluster game. Darius Slay came up with the 3rd quarter, pick-6 for his first career touchdown in the Lions road win over Arizona, 17-3 in Week 14 (Recap). Josh Allen stopped the Lions momentum in Week 15 (Recap) with a 42-yard touchdown to Robert Foster in the 4th quarter over Detroit, 14-13. Followed up by a debilitating 27-9, home loss to the Minnesota Vikings in Week 16 (Recap).

The Lions ended the 2018 season with a hollow 31-0 win (Recap) at Lambeau against the Green Bay Packers. Some took pride that it was against the Packers, but in the end, the rout meant absolutely nothing. Both Detroit and Green Bay were going home.

Detroit’s bright spots: Jarrad Davis and Devon Kennard became the first set of Lions LB to record 6+ sacks on the season. TJ Jones had 2 touchdowns in the win.

Oh, and there was this:

While the season wasn’t ideal, we continue to see growth in Pro Bowler, Darius Slay. Don Muhlbach also joined Slay in Orlando.

Detroit has the 8th pick in the NFL Draft and several roster spots to fill. Here’s to the fast approaching 2019 season. Go Lions!

UPDATE: Detroit cut ties with one of it’s most beloved players in Glover Quin. On behalf of My Detroit Sports and Detroit sports fans everywhere, we say, “Thank you, Glover”.

My Detroit Sports: My Pistons Report #3

The third My Pistons Report finds Detroit fighting for their playoff lives. Basketball is a game of runs both in the standings and in the games themselves. That’s why teams are never as good, or bad, as any particular stretch might indicate. Having started 13-8 with 2 All-Star performers, the Pistons had an opportunity to secure just their second playoff appearance over the last decade. However, an injury to Ish Smith an a tough schedule led to a 7-17 swoon that lands them a game and a half behind the Charlotte Hornets.

Blake Griffin knocked off his former team this month in his return against the Clippers, but not without controversy in what appeared to be a slight to owner, Steve Balmer. Griffin confirmed later, that he doesn’t change his routine sprint to the locker room for anyone.

In assessing where things went wrong, it’s important to look at the home and road splits. The Pistons are a winning team at home (13-11) and a losing team on the road (7-14). Since the start of December they are 3-10 away from Little Caesars Arena. The road woes have shown some of the Pistons weaknesses. While Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond have put up All-Star caliber numbers, it hasn’t been enough. It’s understandable that adding a playmaker like Blake would impact Andre’s stats and role, and to date the pairing has worked well, but Andre’s assists have fallen from 3.0 to 1.2 and his effective field goal percentage is at a career low of .501. The rest of the Pistons have, save for Reggie Bullock and more recently Luke Kennard, been ineffective from the field as well. The inside/out game is generating a sufficient number of looks with the Pistons ranking 10th in 3 pointers attempted, but they’re only hitting at a 33.3% clip which is next to last in the league. It’s not much better within the arc with Detroit ranking 25th on two point attempts. The Pistons defensive efforts put them near the top third of the league and their offense is on par with franchises angling for a top lottery pick. That’s why a team with two All-Stars plays reasonably at home but falters on the road. As Charles Barkley famously said: role players play better at home. Beyond the dreadful offensive stats, the Pistons also have lost some heartbreaking games in the final minutes. Whether or not Buddy Hield double dribbled, his last second off balance shot undid a game the Pistons led most of the way. The Pistons have also lost in the final seconds to the Hornets, Bucks, and Magic. On a positive note, the other 2 games on their recent homestand were tightly contested in the final minutes with the Pistons coming out on top in overtime against the Magic and avoiding overtime on Dwyane Wade’s missed game tying 3 point attempt. The Pistons have also been suffering without the injured Ish Smith. In a way, the Pistons struggles parallel those of the New Orleans Pelicans. Both teams have winning records with Ish Smith and Elfrid Payton respectively. Injuries to both players have left on the outside edge of the playoff race. The Pistons are 15-10 with Ish Smith in the lineup, and 5-10 without. Admittedly playing under 2 minutes against the Heat last week did not likely sway the result, but there’s no question that he provides an offensive spark and steadies the second unit. He has a positive plus/minus (with one neutral) in 16 of 24 games.

Glenn Robinson III and co. said, “good-bye” to one of the game’s greats in Dwyane Wade on Friday at Little Caesars Arena against Miami Heat.

So where does that leave Detroit going forward? Luke Kennard scoring in double figures in 9 of the last 13 games is encouraging. Bruce Brown has definitely carved out a nice role and a lot of minutes. However, they need more shooting. That means that either Stanley Johnson, Reggie Jackson, or Langston Galloway have to provide more on the offensive end. There’s also the potential that Jon Leuer (still shaking off rust) or Glenn Robinson III (career .365 3 point shooter) earn more minutes. The trade deadline is rapidly approaching and it’s unclear if there are any difference makers, e.g. a Bradley Beal or Dennis Smith Jr., that will be both available on the market and available for the Pistons to acquire. Adding Isaiah Whitehead and former Spartan Kalin Lucas to two way spots is not the answer. Both play point guard and minutes at that position are sparse with Jose Calderon providing stability when Jackson and Smith are on the bench. Some of the improvement has to come from within.

Looking at the standings and upcoming games, things don’t get much easier. The Pistons play the league leading Bucks and have 5 games against Western Conference foes before getting a home and home set against the Knicks and a road game in Boston heading into the All-Star break. 4 and a half games separate the Nets in the 6th seed from the Magic in 11th. 38-40 wins may be all it takes to secure a playoff spot. That just requires a 21-15 finish, which is much easier than it sounds. Every game counts in a year where parity reigns and 25 of the 30 teams hold onto realistic playoff aspirations. Time to go on another run.