(0-1) HAWKS 94
- This summer's banner acquistions got their Pistons careers off to a good start. Aron Baynes and Stanley Johnson were okay, and Steve Blake was terrible, but the Pistons don't win this game without the play of Marcus Morris and Ersan Ilyasova in the frontcourt. Morris may have been inefficient, but he created offense when the Pistons couldn't find it anywhere else and stuffed the stat sheet. Defensively, his efforts against Paul Millsap shouldn't go unnoticed. Ilyasova struggled with Millsap early, but he hit some key jumpers, and the two charges he took in the 4th quarter were critical. It's just one game, but tonight was a portrait of what Stan Van Gundy was looking for when he traded for Morris and Ilyasova.
- The game was won on the offensive glass. It didn't really feel like it watching it live, but the Pistons only shot 38.5% from the field against the Hawks. Normally that's a recipe for disaster, but when you grab 23 offensive rebounds, you can afford to miss. The Pistons ranked 3rd in OReb% last season, and they figure to finish close to the top of the league again this year, thanks to Andre Drummond. Drummond grabbed 8 offensive rebounds in the game, 7 of which came in the 2nd half.
- Andre Drummond's post game disappeared tonight. Preseason basketball always comes with caveats, but it really, truly looked like Drummond had sharpened up his post game over the summer. That good feeling went away early tonight after Drummond's first three touches all resulted in hurried, ugly, contested shots. It's important to remember that A) one game is too small of a sample size to make sweeping judgments and B) Drummond is still only 22. However, it was hard not to be discouraged by his touches early in the game. Drummond's post game could feel like a rollercoaster ride this season.
- Kentavious Caldwell-Pope could be the pendulum on which this year's team swings. KCP played a really solid game tonight. His 20 points on 7-14 shooting was nice, but it was his defense on Kyle Korver that caught my attention. It seemed like he was constantly on Korver's hip, making things difficult for him. The Hawks only lost six games in Phillips Arena last season, and Korver's contributions to that mark earned him a spot in last year's All Star game. KCP helped take him away tonight. It's going to take a long stretch of play like this from KCP for me to trust him, but tonight showed his importance to this team.
- The bench did their best to keep this one close. The Pistons bench only scored 18 of Detroit's 106 points tonight. Dennis Schroder matched that on his own, and the Hawks got 35 points in total from their reserves. That means that Detroit's starters outscored Atlanta's at a rate of 88 to 59. A big piece of the bench struggles was Steve Blake's inability to contain Schroder, but it also didn't help that Jodie Meeks was non-existent and Stanley Johnson only went 3-10 from the field. It would be great if we could count on the starting five to dominate like they did on a nightly basis, but if Detroit's truly going to challenge for a playoff berth, they need more from the bench. I'm expecting to see Spencer Dinwiddie on Wednesday night against the Jazz.
- All things considered, what else could you ask for in the season opener? Yeah, Drummond looked shaky early, Blake got dominated by Schroder and they only shot 38.5% from the field, but you can't have any legitimate complaints after a season-opening road win against a team that won 60 games last season.
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, Morris took some ill-advised shots and it took him 19 FGA to get to 18 points. Yeah, there are going to be nights when his step-back 20-footers are going to kill the Pistons. Tonight wasn't one of those nights though, and the value in his 10 rebounds and 4 assists meant much more to the Pistons than his 13 misses. I thought he did a really good job on Paul Millsap too, after it became evident early that Ersan Ilyasova couldn't handle him. He had some timely buckets among his 6 makes and helped set the tone early by punishing Kent Bazemore in the post.
2 - Kentavious Caldwell-Pope: If it weren't for Morris having more big moments, I would have given the top spot to KCP. This is a good step towards him erasing the road woes he had last season. He played strong defense on Kyle Korver and knocked down 4 of his 7 threes. His aggressive play against Korver helped keep Atlanta's offense off-balance.
3 - Andre Drummond: Early on, even when the Pistons were blasting the Hawks in the first quarter, I was prepared to have Drummond in one of the last slots on this list. He looked disinterested at both ends in the first quarter. He rushed every touch he got in the post, and was lucky that Al Horford wasn't connecting on the open 15-18 footers that Dre was gifting him. He settled in though, and chipped in 10 points and 12 rebounds in the second half. He even hit six of his ten free throw attempts on the night, including a string of four straight. By the end of the night, his 19 total rebounds were the most by a Piston in a season opener since at least 1985, per Basketball-Reference.
4 - Reggie Jackson: Jackson was the steadying hand for the Pistons throughout this one. He wasn't spectacular offensively, but he minimized mistakes (only two turnovers) and got the Pistons into their sets. If Detroit had a frustrating possession offensively, it didn't have anything to do with Reggie. He also did a spectacular job defending Jeff Teague, one of the conference's best PGs. Teague scored 7 of his 18 points with less than two minutes remaining, when the game was already decided.
5 - Ersan Ilyasova: I thought about flipping Ilyasova and Jackson, and defense is the only reason I gave Reggie the nod. Ilyasova struggled with Millsap early, as the more physical PF took it to him in the post. Ilyasova made up for it late with two pivotal charges drawn in the fourth quarter. Offensively, he provided the spacing needed by going 3-6 beyond the arc. He won't be a positive like this every night, but he showed why SVG wanted him this offseason, and why he earned a spot in the starting five.
6 - Stanley Johnson: I'm sure it wasn't the debut that the rookie had hoped for, but things weren't all bad. Yeah, he needs to be better than 3-10 from the floor, but he did have 4 rebounds and 3 assists to only 1 turnover. I missed a sizable chunk of the 2nd quarter due to computer issues, so I didn't see any of his buckets.
7 - Steve Blake: Blake was atrocious at both ends of the floor. He got absolutely torched by Dennis Schroder defensively, as he couldn't keep him in front of him. Schroder made 8 FGs in this contest, and only one of them came from outside the paint. I could be wrong, but I believe at least 5 of his 7 makes at the rim came with Blake defending him. Offensively, Blake was 1-6 from the field and turned it over 3 times in 16 minutes. I generally don't like +/-, but Blake's -14 truly felt indicative of his play. He'll match up better against PGs who aren't as lengthy and quick as Schroder, but this was not a good case for him continuing to hold the backup PG spot over Dinwiddie.
Game Score Standings: