Saturday, October 31, 2015

Game Recap #3 - Bulls at Pistons

(3-0) PISTONS 98
(2-1) BULLS 94, F/OT

Box Score


- Despite what has mostly been a garbage offense, the Pistons are 3-0 for the first time since 2008.  We're three games into a season where the Pistons haven't lost or shot above 41% from the field.  This team is winning with defense, trips to the free throw line, offensive rebounds and an ability to take care of the ball.  You can take the shooting struggles as a negative, or you can see the fact that they've found ways to win despite shooting the ball worse than last year's Sixers team.  I sincerely doubt that the Pistons will be a sub-40% shooting team for the duration of a full season.  I don't doubt that they can continue to defend well and take care of the basketball.

- The difference between Marcus Morris and last year's SF rotation is like the difference between The Beatles and Hanson.  The only difference is, I don't really care for The Beatles, but I absolutely enjoy watching Marcus Morris so far.  He scores, he rebounds, he defends, and he does it without a clearly defined role.  Need him to score facing up? He's done it.  Need him to overpower an undersized defender in the post?  He's done it.  Need him to guard a bruising PF?  Need him to man up the other team's do-it-all SF?  He's done that too.  Marcus Morris is this team's utility belt, and this team is 1-2 or 0-3 without that utility belt.

- KCP turned back into a pumpkin tonight.  I liked his energy and aggression on the offensive end, and his defensive play was solid.  He just wasn't hitting shots, and the ball looked flat coming out of his hand.  That makes me wonder if Dave Hopla, the Pistons new shooting coach, has been working to correct that with him.  Against Atlanta and Utah, KCP's stroke was smooth and had a lot of arc to his shots.  That it wasn't there tonight even though his legs looked fresh makes me think they're still working on some things with his mechanics and his release.  We'll see if he can bounce back with a couple of days to work on it.

- The bench still sucks, even if it hasn't mattered yet.  They finally outscored an opposing bench unit (22-21), but they were 9-29 from the field, mostly thanks to an 0-7 performance from Steve Blake.  Brandon Jennings can't get back soon enough.  Anthony Tolliver's performance tonight was the first true positive contribution a reserve has made through three games.  The most likely way this changes is, Brandon Jennings comes back healthy, and Stanley Johnson improves his decision making on the offensive end.

- Despite the results to this point, I'm not ready to declare this team as a great defensive unit.  I think this is definitely a good defensive team, one that's going to finish in the top half of the league in defensive efficiency.  I'm not sold on them cracking the top ten though.  Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Marcus Morris seem like pluses at their individual positions, but other than that, I'm not 100% confident in what the rest of the team can do.  Andre Drummond still struggles with skilled, crafty scorers, and Reggie Jackson is definitely no worse or better than average.  Beyond that, the bench has its struggles, and none of the true PFs on this roster are capable of coming up with a stop unless they're drawing a charge.  I'm not saying this can't be a top ten defense, I'm just saying I don't feel comfortable believing in this level of results just yet.

- This unexpected 3-0 start only adds magnitude to the upcoming West Coast trip.  The Pacers will be at The Palace on Tuesday night before the Pistons head out west for six games.  On paper, I like the Pistons in four of those contests (PHX, POR, LAL, SAC), but Detroit generally struggles on this early season road trip to the Pacific coast.  Even with a loss to Indiana before they head out, I think this start adds magnitude because expectations will be up.  Yes, they play the Clippers and the Warriors, but those other four teams almost certainly aren't making the playoffs in the Western Conference.  I know I'll be disappointed in anything worse than a 3-3 road trip.

- The chrome jerseys need to die a fiery death.  They look extremely generic.  In terms of alternates we've seen over the last few years, these are terrible.  Minus the sleeves, I liked last year's Motor City alternates, and the all-reds they used to pull out from time-to-time at the tail end of the Going to Work were cool too.  These chrome jerseys just look like something that someone created in MS Paint.

Click "Read More" for tonight's Player Scores...


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 - Marcus Morris: Yeah, Andre Drummond finished with a 20-20 game, but Marcus Morris was by far the Pistons' best player tonight.  He was the only reliable source of offensive creation for the full game, contributed to Jimmy Butler's 5-19 shooting night, grabbed 7 rebounds and had 2 assists, one of which was key in building the insurmountable lead in OT.  I could be wrong, but I believe he also had a huge hockey assist in the OT period.  Normally I hate when guys operate from the spaces he operates from, but the Pistons need his shot creation.  On top of it all, he hasn't demonstrated any of the jackassish tendencies that turned the Phoenix fans against him.  Even if he regresses significantly, the Pistons absolutely stole him from the Suns.  To this point, after KCP's performance tonight, I don't think there's any argument that Morris has been Detroit's best player so far. Score one for President Van Gundy and his front office.

2 - Andre Drummond: He doesn't rank 2nd on the night for his season's production, but I'd like to use this space to point out that Drummond is averaging 18.7 PPG, 16.3 RPG and 2.0 BPG through the first three contests.  The reason he does rank 2nd, is that he put up a 20-20 performance and because his offensive rebounding was critical during yet another night where the offense couldn't hit the broad side of a barn.  Drummond's 9 offensive rebounds were more than Chicago had as a team.  I assure you he tapped some of Detroit's other 11 offensive boards.  His free throw shooting (4-10) betrayed him tonight, but he still managed to hit the 20 point mark, thanks to some ferocious dunks, and a bunch of tip-ins.  He was only 8-19 from the field, but a lot of that came on possessions where it just took him a few taps to get a shot to fall.  It's amazing how quickly he gets back up to the rim after his own misses.

3 - Reggie Jackson: The 22-7-7 line he posted is good, as was the defense he played on Derrick Rose.  Rose woke up a bit in the fourth quarter, but the Bulls' PG was only 4-13 from the field and had 5 turnovers opposite 6 assists.  On the other hand, Jackson was only 9-24 from the field, and turned it over 5 times himself.  It wasn't a banner night for him, but he definitely won the PG matchup, and I thought he did a good job of getting into the paint.  There are going to be nights when he gets a lot of the looks he had tonight to fall.  I still feel good about the extension he received in the offseason.

4 - Anthony Tolliver: Tolliver didn't have an overly impressive night on the stat sheet, but he provided much needed services tonight.  With it being apparent, as it usually is, that Ersan Ilyasova wasn't going to cut it defensively, Tolliver played 30 minutes off the bench.  He's not a stopper by any means, but he was better in his minutes than Ersan would have been against such a good, deep frontcourt.  He knocked down 3 of his 8 triples and was generally a neutral or positive force in his minutes.  This was an encouraging showing after he was trying to shake the rust off on Wednesday night.

5 - Steve Blake: This ranking is more of a reflection of the Pistons' lack of depth than it is on how Blake performed tonight.  There's obviously value in 5 assists against 0 turnovers, but he's not a positive on defense and he was an amazing 0-7 from the field, including 0-4 from three.  Blake's now 2-16 from the field and 1-10 from three on the season.

6 - Kentavious Caldwell-Pope: The Pistons aren't going to win most nights where their starting SG goes 2-12 from the field and 0-5 from deep.  He mostly got good looks, and I thought his energy was great, but he just couldn't produce offensively tonight.  However, he had a huge defensive play on Jimmy Butler in transition in the OT stanza and was generally good on that end of the floor all night.  Again, I thought he came to play, but that it just wasn't his night.

7 - Ersan Ilyasova: Took yet another charge, bumping his season total to an unofficial count of six.  That's all fine and dandy, but he has little value to this team when he's not knocking down the open shots this offense creates.  He was 0-3 from beyond the arc, and ceded the important minutes to Anthony Tolliver for defensive reasons.

8 - Reggie Bullock: Got just enough minutes to qualify for the rankings tonight due to Jodie Meeks' injury, but he was a non-factor.  A rushed three point attempt was his only FGA of the night.  I look forward to him adjusting to his role as the season wears on, because I think he can contribute in a positive manner off the bench.

Season Standings

Marcus Morris2.00
Andre Drummond2.33
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope3.00
Reggie Jackson3.33
Steve Blake5.67
Stanley Johnson6.00
Anthony Tolliver6.00
Ersan Ilyasova6.33
Reggie Bullock8.00

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