(0-1) JAZZ 87
- The offense is feeling for the light switch in the dark. I have a feeling they'll find it at some point, but for now it feels like there isn't much direction on that end of the floor. The Jazz are a really good defensive team, but large stretches of the first half were marked by ineptitude. There wasn't enough movement off the ball, and the ball movement seemed like it lacked a purpose. Reggie Jackson bailed them out with some good isolation in the 2nd quarter, and they got a combined 46 points from threes and free throws. It's amazing that the Pistons are 2-0 when they've shot like they have from the field. This win's FG% was better than opening night, and it was still below what the 76ers averaged last season. Andre Drummond finding his way in the post is the most likely solution here, but that solution will likely come and go early on in the season.
- Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is either making a leap or being a huge tease. It's only two games in, but KCP has definitely been the Pistons' best player this year. He did a great job defending Kyle Korver in Atlanta and was effective on Gordon Hayward tonight. On top of that, he's now 6-12 from deep, and has 7 free throw attempts to his name, all of which he's made. The most important development is that he's getting to the basket off the dribble, and he looks confident doing so. His inconsistency was the most frustrating thing about him last season, so I refuse to get my hopes up until we're at least a few weeks into the season. Early returns look great.
- The bench is going to be a trouble spot against the better teams in the league. The Pistons actually got less points from their bench against the Jazz than they did in Atlanta on opening night. A broken foot for Jodie Meeks probably doesn't make this any easier to digest. The early prognosis is that he'll be out for 6-8 weeks, but the type of fracture he suffered is the same one that cost Kevin Durant most of his season last year. Now's the time to find out if Reggie Bullock's preseason emergence is for real. The first real test comes Friday night against a Chicago bench that features Taj Gibson, Joakim Noah and Doug McDermott.
- The Pistons did a good job of defending the three point line. Three point defense isn't measured in opponent percentage, but rather in the amount of attempts allowed. The Jazz only took 12 threes last night, coming off of a season where they were in the top half of the league in 3PAr and attempted over 21 threes per game. It's also helpful that Rodney Hood went 0-7 from beyond the arc, but again, it's all about limiting attempts.
- The officiating was atrocious. Joey Crawford remains terrible. On a related note, Marcus Morris picked up his first of what will be many, many technical fouls.
- The happiest sad statistic: The Pistons are 2 games above .500 for the first time since 2009. That 2008-09 team featured the hollowed out core of the championship team, plus Allen Iverson, and finished 39-43. I'd take this year's roster over that one any day, and don't even get me started on the differences between Kuester and Stan Van Gundy. This is the best roster we've seen since the Pistons' last Eastern Conference Finals appearance. It's nowhere close to being on par with those teams, of course, but we're moving in the right direction.
What is this? Similar to how the NHL hands out three stars after a game, I'll be handing out points to any Piston who saw at least 15 minutes of playing time. Just like in hockey, you want to be the 1st star, so getting 1 point is better than getting, say, 6. I do my best to watch all 82 games, but it's not always possible. I will make it known if I did not watch the game being graded. This takes as much into consideration as possible: stats, eye test, intangibles, etc. It's just how I saw things shake out. I'll keep a running set of standings updated at the bottom of every game recap; remember, the lower average the better.
1 - Kentavious Caldwell-Pope: KCP was the Pistons' best two-way player tonight, an honor he shared with Marcus Morris in the opener. His consistent, tough perimeter defense and his two big free throws that gave the Pistons breathing room with 10 seconds left put him in the top spot tonight. This KCP is a player who does everything the Pistons need to complement Reggie Jackson and Andre Drummond.
2 - Andre Drummond: He looked bad in the post again, but an 8-11 performance from the free throw line was key for an offense that sputtered from the field. Way too small of a sample, but he's 14-21 from the line this year. A season of 18 PPG/13 RPG/2 BPG beckons if he can stay within ten points of his current percentage. He did have one nice hook shot over Gobert's infinitely long arms that provided some hope. He added 10 rebounds and 2 blocks in a performance that was enough to cancel out the brutal advantage the Jazz had at PF. We're two 18 point games into the season and I feel like he has way more to offer offensively. This is good and bad, but mostly good because it hasn't cost the Pistons a win yet.
3 - Reggie Jackson: Took over when the offense was stalled in the second quarter. Hit a big three with 3:36 left to put Detroit up six, which he made sure Raul Neto knew about, and then of course he notched the critical lay-up with 17 seconds left to put the Pistons ahead for good. In the process, he also irritated a bunch of whiny Jazz fans on Twitter, one of whom went so far as to say that "Jackson talks so much trash for such a mediocre game." I think I'll take Jackson's 19 points and 4 assists over Neto's 8 and 3, but that's just me. Jackson's four turnovers and a couple of iffy shots were the lone dark spots.
4 - Marcus Morris: He didn't look good early, but much like last night, the Pistons don't win this game without Morris' contributions. Hard to complain about 14 points (5-10 shooting) and 6 rebounds after what we've had at SF over the years. His shot selection was much better tonight too. Nobody was good against Derrick Favors defensively, but he was better than Ilyasova, for what that's worth.
5 - Steve Blake: The thing Blake does where he just runs circles around the paint reminds me of Spike Albrecht. It worked last night, as his 7 assists (1 turnover) helped keep the offense afloat while Reggie Jackson caught his breath. The Pistons need him to start making his open looks, but it's early in the season and we're still in a small sample. Burke and Neto didn't cause nearly as much trouble for him defensively as Schroder did.
6 - Ersan Ilyasova: I really wanted to put Ilyasova in the 5th slot thanks to a couple of huge charges drawn in the second half again. On one of them he caught Rudy Gobert's foot in his chest. I just couldn't put him any higher though; not with the images in my head of Derrick Favors destroying him in the post. A set of old-timey wild west saloon doors would have been more effective in keeping Favors away from the rim. His defense is going to be a problem all year, but it is nice that he helped space the floor once again (2-4 from three).
7 - Stanley Johnson: Johnson was 3-10 from the field again, and I liked tonight's performance less than last night's. He took a few ill-advised shots, including a step-back three with time on the shot clock that made me cringe. On the other hand, he got to the free throw line a few times and I liked his energy on defense. Those who crowned him as the Rookie of the Year after summer league and preseason are probably re-thinking their stance. He's been a decent contributor off the bench though.
8 - Anthony Tolliver: Tolliver's debut was uninspiring, including an 0-3 performance from the field. He missed the opener after the birth of his daughter, so it's hard to blame him for being a little off. Still, he was the Pistons' worst rotation player tonight.