Monday, November 30, 2015

Game Recap #18 - Rockets at Pistons

(7-11) ROCKETS 105
(9-9) PISTONS 116

Box Score


- The first half was great!  The Pistons dominated the Rockets from the word "go", even with Andre Drummond glued to the bench with two early fouls.  The Pistons led by 8 after the first and 23 entering the halftime break.  Reggie Jackson notched 17 first half points and I can't think of a single player, other than maybe Drummond for removing himself from the action, who had a negative impact on things.

- The second half...not so much.  The Rockets used a poor FT shooting night from Andre Drummond and some sloppy play from the Pistons to vault themselves back into the game in the 3rd quarter.  With few options remaining, the Rockets decided to play the foul game, putting Andre at the line 14 times in the third quarter.  He only hit four of those, and in the process, the Rockets whittled the Pistons' lead from 23 to 11.  They would come as close as 5 points late in the fourth quarter before their comeback effort ran out of gas.  File it away as a learning opportunity.  The Pistons didn't play a clean second half by any means, but a good portion of the Rockets' comeback was that they hit some tough shots.  Factor in some of the auto-fouls that James Harden draws, and they're a team built for a good comeback.  Credit to the Pistons and Stan Van Gundy for adjusting in the fourth quarter and holding on for the win.

- I don't think auto-fouling should be allowed, but the Pistons should have utilized it.  In the midst of the Rockets' huge third quarter, Andre Drummond was left to struggle at the FT line.  The discussion about the NBA allowing or not allowing that sort of thing is one for another day, but since it's legal now, why not take advantage?  Clint Capela, a career 37.5% FT shooter, played chunks of minutes while the Pistons' lead was bleeding out.  Why not stunt the Rockets' momentum by making Capela answer Drummond at the FT line?  I get that you don't give out free points with the clock stopped, and I'm not saying they should have done it on every Rockets' possession.  However, there was a point in the 3rd quarter where it felt like the Pistons were helpless to stop Houston from scoring.  Take a possession or two and make Capela keep that momentum alive with some unlikely FTs.

- Stanley Johnson came alive tonight! The rookie notched career highs in rebounds, blocks and 3PM tonight.  His 19 points and 10 rebounds gave him the first double-double of his career, and he hit his four threes from all different spots on the floor.  The best part was that it didn't feel like he had to force things to make it happen.  A couple more outings like this and we'll have to get serious with discussions about moving him into the starting five.

- This isn't news or a unique take, but... There isn't a less boring "superstar" in the league than James Harden.  I very much disliked watching him take over the game by drawing a bunch of weak fouls and shooting 17 free throws.  He's a talented offensive player, but it's no fun watching him play the way he does.  Can't blame him for it if he's going to get the calls, but you can't make me enjoy it either.

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

2015-16 Asset Board

1Andre DrummondC6'112802291
Obvious #1 is obvious. 2nd best young big in the game.
2Marcus MorrisF6'92352668
Needs to get his jump shot back on track; Still a good value
3Reggie JacksonPG6'32102565
Good, not great, starting PG. Has a level we haven't seen this year
4Kentavious Caldwell-PopeSG6'52052265
Still on his rookie contract, and a solid, if unspectacular, starter.
5Stanley JohnsonSF6'72451964
Flashes come and go. Youth and potential are his best assets.
62016 1st Round Pick12-18---62
Preferences in this range include Caris LeVert and Henry Ellenson.
7Ersan IlyasovaPF6'102352858
Flexibility in the contract adds extra value for an average guy
8Brandon JenningsG6'11752655
Check back when he's returned to action
9Anthony TolliverPF6'82403040
Pending FA; Shots need to start falling or his value will keep dropping.
10Jodie MeeksSG6'52102839
Injuries eating into his value; contract not seeming to be worth it
11Aron BaynesF/C6'102602832
Good moments and bad; Adequate backup, but deal hurts value
12Darrun HilliardG/F6'62152231
Value mostly in his youth and rookie scale contract
132016 2nd Round Pick42-48---30
Too early to expect anything with this one
14Spencer DinwiddiePG6'62002230
Things are looking bleak lately; Clock is ticking
15Reggie BullockG/F6'72052427
Earned PT in the preseason; Did absolutely nothing with his minutes
16Steve BlakePG6'31753523
Oldest player on roster; may be superfluous when Jennings returns
17Joel AnthonyC6'92453315
Safety blanket at C; no expecation of serious on-court value

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Game Recap #17 - Pistons at Nets

(8-9) PISTONS 83
(4-13) NETS 87

Box Score


- It's time to start making some changes.  In a conference where just about everyone other than the Sixers and Nets are at or above .500, you can't afford to lose games to the Nets and the Sixers of the world.  You especially can't afford to do it on nights where the Nets shoot below 40% for most of the night.  The Pistons cancelled that out by going 34-101 from the field themselves and missing 12 free throws.  We're one fifth of the way through the season, and the Pistons are shooting 40.8% from the field as a team, a main component in the Pistons being one of the league's worst offensive teams.  Earlier in the year, I was insistent that sample size was a factor and that they would pick things up.  We're 17 games into things and now it just looks like the offense is broken.  Teams know what to expect in the pick-and-roll, and with shots not falling for guys like KCP and Marcus Morris, they can pack the paint on Andre and Reggie.  The players aren't adjusting well to teams taking away their bread and butter, and Stan Van Gundy has yet to come up with any answers.  It's probably time to shake things up and make some adjustments, if only for the sake of making it look like they're trying to find solutions.

- What could those changes possibly be?  It might be too early in the year for roster moves, so I'll try and focus more on what could be done with the pieces currently in place.  I think the first move to happen needs to be swapping Stanley Johnson into the starting lineup for Ersan Ilyasova.  This has nothing to do with Johnson outplaying Ilyasova or anything like that.  This is more about getting better shooting from the bench unit and starting to eat some of Anthony Tolliver's minutes.  Ilyasova's one of the lowest usage players on the team, despite being the only guy who's shooting the ball well.  Getting him to the bench gets him more looks.  Getting Stanley into the starting five also gets him more open looks instead of forcing him to find shots himself.  Other ideas for fixing the offense without making moves are scarce.  They really just need some guys to start making shots.  One thing I did like that I saw tonight: a dribble hand-off from Jackson to Morris, that lead straight into a Drummond-Morris pick-and-roll.  That PnR lead directly to an alley-oop to Andre.  More creative stuff like that should do wonders.

- This terrible offense is wasting what looks like a damn good defense.  Coming into Sunday night, the Pistons ranked 8th in the league in Def. Efficiency, only ceding 101.5 points per 100 possessions.  That won't change after the Pistons held Brooklyn to 87 points in a game that saw Brooklyn come away with about 100 possessions (100.6 if you use the formula method: FGA + .475xFTA + turnovers - offensive rebounds).  The real problem with the offense is that it's putting a stranglehold on a team that has the potential to win enough games to easily secure a playoff spot.  Among the top 15 teams in the league in Def. Eff., the Pistons are now the only one with a losing record.  If it does come time to make a trade and upgrade the offense, there's your justification.

- The upcoming home stretch is now very important.  The Pistons sit below .500 for the first time this year, but are also looking at their first consecutive home games in a month.  It starts with the woeful Rockets on Monday night, who are battling the Knicks in OT as I write this.  They've been a mess this year, and their big offseason pickup, PG Ty Lawson, is headed for a DNP-CD in New York tonight.  Detroit failed to take advantage of a weak Nets team tonight, and can't afford to make a similar mistake against Houston.  That one's followed by Phoenix on Wednesday, and chances for revenge on Friday and Sunday against the Bucks and Lakers.  Anything less than 3-1 against that slate of opponents, with the luxury of no back-to-backs, will be a disappointment.  Getting back on the right side of .500 and staying there is important for morale.

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

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Game Recap #16 - Pistons at Thunder

(8-8) PISTONS 87
(11-6) THUNDER 103

Box Score


- Didn't have a chance to watch this one, and with the UM-OSU game just hours away and a reliable replay apparently unavailable, I'll just be grading off of stats for this one.  Should be back to normal for the Nets game on Sunday.

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

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Game Recap #15 - Heat at Pistons

(9-5) HEAT 81
(8-7) PISTONS 104

Box Score


- Happy Thanksgiving!  For that reason, just player scores for this one.  ALL HAIL ANDRE

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

Monday, November 23, 2015

Game Recap #14 - Pistons at Bucks

(7-7) PISTONS 88
(6-8) BUCKS 109

Box Score


- Not what I had in mind for getting the starters some rest.  The Pistons played a competitive first quarter with the Bucks tonight.  Stan Van Gundy and his group must have been pretty pleased with it, because they decided the game was over after that.  The Pistons were outscored 63-36 in the middle frames, surrendering a seemingly unmitigated flow of open threes and even more open lanes to the rim.  The upside to the brutal ass kicking that the Bucks provided is that no single Piston played more than 26 minutes.  Hopefully guys like Marcus Morris, KCP, Reggie Jackson and Andre Drummond feel rested after tonight.  If they don't, the Pistons would have been better off just staying home.

- Stan Van Gundy got thoroughly outcoached.  Andre Drummond had established dominance over Greg Monroe early in this one.  There was nothing the Bucks could do to stop Andre from getting what he wanted inside.  The Pistons went away from that for some reason, even before Drummond had to leave with three minutes left in the 1st after he picked up his second foul.  From there on out, it was the same three guys standing around a pick-and-roll that has the Pistons' offense in the bottom three of the whole NBA offensively.  The pick-and-roll can be a great staple for this team, but Stan Van Gundy has to find ways to get more out of the three guys who aren't center stage for the action.  The Bucks got several layups/dunks for guys out of the pick-and-roll who weren't the screener or the ball-handler.  The Pistons don't have enough talent to run the exact same thing over and over and get results.  If you can think of a time this season where it felt like Stan Van Gundy has had a positive effect on a game with his moves or rotations, let me know.  I can't think of anything.  Part of it is calling plays, and part of it is just putting guys in situations that play to their strengths.  Which leads me to my next point:

- Someone please tell Stanley Johnson to stop shooting from the top of the key.  With an 0-3 performance outside of the corners tonight, Stanley Johnson is now shooting 3-25 on threes from straight away and the wings.  He's 5-13 from the corners.  He's also shooting 70% at the rim.  This tells me that it's time to put him in the starting lineup.  With the bench group, he's too responsible for generating his own offense, or hocking up a prayer with the shot clock expiring.  If he plays with the starters, he can stand in the corners and/or cut to the basket without having to get looks on his own.  I understand this would hamper his offensive development, which can be addressed by making him the first man subbed out after six or seven minutes.  He's playing about 20 MPG right now; 12-15 of those should come with the starters.  The other 5-8 can be spent trying to refine his ball-handling and shot creation with the reserves.

- The night's silver lining.  Anthony Tolliver was 4-8 from the field and 3-6 from deep in this one, with two of his long distance connections coming in the mostly pointless fourth quarter.  He was 0-10 from the field in the three games leading up to this one, and came into the night shooting 25.6% from three.  Tolliver rounding back into form and shooting closer to his career average (35.2 3P%) would go a long way for a bench that generates looks but not points.

- Wing depth: not good.  Darrun Hilliard got his first minutes of the season, seeing 13 minutes of action.  He responded to the opportunity by going 1-7 from the field, 0-2 from three and turning the ball over twice.  Reggie Bullock only got in late, playing 6 minutes after SVG decided it wasn't worth putting his starters back in.  Bullock went 0-2 from the field, and missed a wide open three.  He's now 1-17 from the field this season, and somehow 0-8 inside the arc.  The preseason was a mirage, like it usually is.  Jodie Meeks wasn't playing well, but he's sorely missed right now.

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

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Game Recap #13 - Wizards at Pistons

(6-4) WIZARDS 97
(7-6) PISTONS 95

Box Score


- They took their foot off the gas pedal.  The Pistons took an 11 point lead on an Ersan Ilyasova three with 6:37 left in the third.  It had been a back-and-forth game to that point, fulfilling the cliche that basketball is a game of runs.  However, it truly felt like the Pistons had seized control and were ready to put this one in the win column over the last 18 minutes.  Then the Wizards brought in a large chunk of their bench and spurred a 17-4 run.  It took the air out of the building and the Pistons only took the lead back briefly midway through the 4th.  Blame it on the fourth back-to-back of the year or Andre Drummond's upper respiratory infection, but the Pistons seemed content to go into cruise control after taking the lead in the 3rd.  It ended up costing them a win on a night where the Wizards got nothing from their star backcourt duo.

- THIS BENCH IS TRASH.  Seems like it's been a few games since it was quite this bad, but the bench was outscored 51-15 on the night.  Nene, with his 18 points, outscored the Pistons reserves all on his own.  Ramon Sessions made more free throws than the Pistons' bench did field goals.  None of the reserves were particularly good, but Anthony Tolliver continues to stand out as the glaring weakness.  He was 0-1 from the field, and is now 2-18 over the Pistons' last four games.  Stan Van Gundy may have to address the backup PF spot with a roster move soon.  He can only give Ersan Ilyasova so many more minutes, and Marcus Morris is maxed out.  It's time to get creative with Stanley Johnson at the 4 in a small ball lineup, try and fit Baynes in at PF or make a trade.  It would be great right now to have Quincy Miller instead of Steve Blake.

- Andre Drummond just didn't have it tonight.  The Pistons' star big man looked like he wasn't engaged tonight.  It came out after Friday night's win that Drummond was dealing with an upper respiratory infection, which could very well be to blame for his lethargic play the last two nights.  He finished with zero offensive rebounds and ended up with only 8 points.  It was the first time in 13 games this year that he didn't record a double-double.  If he comes out on Monday night and dominates Greg Monroe, I'll be willing to chalk this up to illness.

- I'd rather bring this up after a win, but it still bears discussing.  John Wall picked a bad night to not put forth a very good effort.  Has he already forgotten that over the summer he chose to take issue with the fact that he and Reggie Jackson are making the same money?  Jackson, while less than perfect, thoroughly outplayed Wall, who looked like he couldn't be bothered to care in this one.  Wall finished with 8 points (4-11 fg), 7 assists and 2 rebounds in 27 minutes, ceding 20 points, 9 assists and 3 boards to Reggie.  Taking a look at the season numbers, Wall hasn't been better than Jackson to this point in the year.  Wall may want to focus more on his game and less on what his peers' bank accounts look like.  Washington won despite him tonight, not because he's a superior PG to Reggie Jackson.

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

Game Recap #12 - Pistons at Wolves

(7-5) PISTONS 96

Box Score


- Andre Drummond is due for leaguewide acclaim this season.  It didn't look like it was going to be Andre's night as he sunk into foul trouble and had trouble negotiating against Karl-Anthony Towns' athleticism.  Then he flipped the switch in the 3rd quarter and scored 15 points as he carried the Pistons to victory.  I had the Wolves broadcast for this one and they seemed pretty dejected after Drummond's performance in the second half.  That's usually a pretty good sign that the opposition feels like there's no answer for you.  He ran into some foul trouble tonight for the first time all year, but even that couldn't keep him from his 12th double-double in 12 games.  He'd have to fall off the face of the Earth to not make the All-Star team at this rate, and a 1st team All-NBA selection is a real possibility in the best case scenario.  Yes, really.

- Tonight was a horrible argument that basketball can be pretty.  The Pistons shot a chilly 6-28 from beyond the arc and the Wolves were 3-13 from deep with as many turnovers as assists.  Detroit had more turnovers than assists.  Part of Detroit's turnover issues were the refs making a point of calling moving screens as tight as possible, but overall this game lacked aesthetic appeal.  The only things keeping this one entertaining were the potential that KAT or Wiggins was going to do something fun and the ever-pending punishment that Andre Drummond has brought this year.  I found myself leaning in late just to see if Andre was going to continue his double-double streak.

- The Wolves are going to be scary if they can find some outside shooting.  Karl-Anthony Towns is the real deal, and Andrew Wiggins is going to be great as his second banana.  I also liked what I saw from Zach LaVine, and he should be nothing worse than a really good 6th man within a few years.  That's a nice start to a competitive team, but they absolutely have to add some shooters to the roster.  Kevin Martin is the only established jump shooter on the team, and he's far from a long term piece of the puzzle.  It's unfortunate that this year's draft is so short on quality wings, because the Wolves figure to pick somewhere between 5 and 10 and they would really benefit from putting a shooter on the wing opposite Wiggins.

- Something has to be done about the lack of depth at SG and PF.  Reggie Bullock's inability to knock down open shots has caused SVG to play KCP for heavier-than-optimal minutes since Jodie Meeks' injury.  He's only played less than 35 minutes once this season through 12 games, and he topped the 38 minute mark tonight for the fifth time this year.  I think that's the main reason KCP has struggled to shoot the ball so far, as his minutes and defensive tasks eat away at his offensive efficiency.  Finding a wing who can knock down a shot and play honest defense may be a requirement if Bullock doesn't start producing.  The Pistons could also end up in the market for a PF to eat the minutes that are currently going to Anthony Tolliver.  He's currently lost in the fog of a miserable shooting slump and hasn't shown any signs of coming out of it.  You can't write a guy off 12 games into a season, but it's tempting to do so with how bad Tolliver has looked.

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

Friday, November 20, 2015

Total Eclipse of the Chart: Marcus Morris

Marcus Morris was one of the keys to the Pistons' 5-1 start, as his instant offense helped carry a unit that struggled to generate easy looks.  Morris averaged 17 PPG on 41.4% shooting over Detroit's first six contests, making for an adequate third option in an offense that was good enough to support a stellar defense.  Five games and four losses later, Morris has gone ice cold, dropping to 11.6 PPG on some really fugly 32.8% shooting.  While his shot selection will probably always be an issue, Morris' shooting troubles to this point in the year can't possibly continue.  Based off of his career numbers and the simple law of averages, we should expect Morris to find his stroke.  While his outside shooting should round into form, Morris could also help himself by managing his offense better.  Here's a more detailed look at what Morris is doing offensively this year, and why we should expect him to bounce back from his recent slump.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Breaking Down Reggie Jackson's 12 Assists vs. Cleveland

Thanks to the NBA providing video box scores that give a snapshot of every stat recorded, I was able to take a closer look at how Reggie Jackson racked up 12 assists in an important home win over the Cavaliers on Tuesday night.  Now 11 games into the season, it was the first time that Reggie Jackson returned to the role as a premier distributor, one he had truly assumed after Stan Van Gundy acquired him in a trade deadline stunner last year.  Through the first 10 games of this season, Jackson looked indecisive and too focused on scoring.  While that paid off in the 4th quarter against Portland during his 26 point explosion, it has more often than not held the offense down.  Here's a look at how Reggie Jackson turned that around on Tuesday night.

If you want to follow along with each of his assists, check out the videos.  Unfortunately, there's no way to embed them here that I'm aware of.  Here's how Jackson's 12 assists on the night were attained:

  • 4 alley oops to Andre Drummond
  • 4 passes for Ersan Ilyasova jumpers
  • 1 nice halfcourt pass to KCP on a fast break for a layup
  • 1 pass to Marcus Morris for a corner three, and one
  • 1 pass to Marcus Morris on a fast break for a pull up elbow jumper
  • 1 pass to Ersan Ilyasova, who made a nice driving shot; it was generous to give Jackson an assist on this one
The most encouraging part of that is the four assists to Andre Drummond.  That was a big piece of the offense last year after Jackson was acquired, and it had looked like teams were shutting it down early this year.  The reason I think the alley oops to Drummond were open more often against the Cavs were threefold.  First, Reggie Jackson came out and scored out of the pick-and-roll early and often.  He had one assist to Drummond early in the first quarter, and that was sandwiched in between multiple buckets at the rim for Reggie.  That made the defense pay more attention to Reggie going forward, opening up more room for Andre at the rim.  The second thing was Ersan Ilyasova keeping his man honest.  With Ilyasova knocking down jumpers, his man had to make a decision whether to help down on Andre or stay with a guy who's now shooting 45% from three on the year.  Ilyasova's shot the ball well all season, but when there's no thought of Reggie getting him the ball in the corner, his man can help on the pick-and-roll.  The third reason Reggie was more successful getting the ball to Andre was that he waited longer to make a decision between scoring and passing.  Jackson has settled for a lot of floaters so far this year instead of getting all the way to the rim.  When he does get all the way to the rim, the defense has to come off of Andre to prevent a layup.  When that happens, all Reggie has to do is float the ball up and let Andre go get it.

Other than a nice outlet pass to KCP, the rest of Jackson's true assists came on jump shots.  This piece requires Jackson getting some help, because, of course,  you can make as many beautiful passes as you want and not get an assist if your teammates aren't hitting.  The Pistons have been one of the most woeful jump shooting teams in the league this year, and that is almost certainly partially responsible for Jackson's lower assist numbers.  Reggie finding Ersan Ilyasova in the corner out of the pick-and-roll was a big part of this one.  Ilyasova's a reliable shoooter, and with the struggles of KCP and Marcus Morris, the Pistons need to find more ways to get him involved.  

The Pistons need more distribution from Reggie Jackson going forward if their offense is going to get to a respectable level.  If he can keep finding Andre Drummond a few times a night out of the pick-and-roll, the Pistons' other options are going to open up big time and their shooting numbers should pick up.  The keys to that happening will be Reggie keeping the defense honest with his scoring, not rushing his decisions out of the pick-and-roll, and getting some help from the team's spot-up shooters.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Game Recap #11 - Cavaliers at Pistons

(8-3) CAVALIERS 99
(6-5) PISTONS 104

Box Score


- Andre Drummond is the franchise player that this organization needs him to be.  Take away Andre Drummond and replace him with a league average C and this Pistons team is competing with the Sixers to see who gets to draft Ben Simmons.  It never gets old watching him sky above his teammates and opponents to pluck a rebound before everyone else even has a chance to jump.  He's been doing that since his rookie season.  What he's added this year is an ability to hit a simple hook shot.  His shot is nearly impossible to block thanks to his wide shoulders, and as the season has gone on, his comfort level in the post has improved.  All hail Andre.

- I need to go back and re-watch this game.  Of course Reggie Jackson makes his return to being a distributor on a night where I didn't really have a chance to watch closely.  I'll be interested to see what allowed Jackson to get to double digit assists for the first time this season.  My best guess is that Ersan Ilyasova's shooting forced the Cavs to not commit extra help to Andre Drummond.

- Are the Pistons playing to their competition level?  After beating the 8-3 Cavs, the Pistons improved to 6-5.  Their six wins are against teams with a combined record of 38-28.  Their five losses have come against teams with a combined record of 30-25.  Take out Golden State's 12-0 record and that drops to 18-25.  That's something that suggests a few things to me.  First, the Pistons have played one of the toughest schedules in the league to this point.  Basketball-Reference's strength of schedule metric puts them 6th.  Second, maybe the grind of the road trip really did effect play out west?  The Pistons have wins over the Cavs, Bulls and Hawks, who are currently the top three teams in the Eastern Conference.  This team is more than capable of beating teams like the Kings and Lakers on full rest.

- Can we start a petition to get LeBron to the Spurs?  I say this for two reasons: First, it would finally get him out of the Eastern Conference.  Second, I would be very intrigued to see what he looks like on a team that actually has a competent coach.  In his career, he's played for the likes of Mike Brown, Erik Spoelstra and David Blatt.  That list is less than impressive.  Blatt aided the Pistons' win by intentionally fouling Andre Drummond with the Cavs up 4 and just under three minutes left.  Giving the league's 28th-best offense a chance at free points is less than optimal, Dave.  Thanks though!

- Friday night's matchup in Minnesota should be interesting.  The Wolves are one of the league's pleasant surprises this year, sitting at 5-6 after a road win over the Heat on Tuesday night.  That win bumped them to 5-1 on the road, which means they're 0-5 at home.  With two full days to recover and prepare, the Pistons should have an edge on the young, talented Wolves.  It's far from a guaranteed W though.  I'm excited to get my first full game look at Karl-Anthony Towns.

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

Monday, November 16, 2015

Game Recap #10 - Pistons at Lakers

(5-5) PISTONS 85
(2-8) LAKERS 97

Box Score


- All good feelings from the 5-1 start have turned into uncertainty.  The Lakers are not a good basketball team, but the Pistons made them look like one last night.  The Pistons shot 36.5% from the field and only had 16 assists compared to 10 turnovers.  Detroit was good enough defensively to win this game with even a sub-par offensive performance.  Instead, they notched their worst offensive performance of the season.  The end of the west coast trip was so bad that we're left with nothing but questions going forward.  Stan Van Gundy has to find ways to make the offensive schemes more creative, because teams are playing Andre Drummond way too tightly in the pick-and-roll.  That's been part of Reggie Jackson's struggles, but the PG has to make better decisions.  I'm less concerned with his lack of assists, and more concerned with the amount of stupid turnovers he's piling up.  The rest of the team needs to find a way to start knocking down open shots.

- Marcus Morris is going to continue to be this team's deciding factor.  It's no coincidence that he's played well in their wins and poorly in their losses.  He hasn't looked focused over the last few games.  I know better than to expect him to take good shots, but he can't make mental mistakes on defense and completely ignore the paint on offense.  With Tolliver struggling, Johnson needing more development and Bullock deserving of more playing time, I'd like to see Morris play more minutes at PF.  In theory, that should lead to more face-up looks and less fadeaways over smaller defenders.

- Stan Van Gundy picked the wrong game to start toying with the rotation.  He had a bunch of weird substitution patterns in this one.  He pulled guys for two minutes at a time and then put them back in, and played a few lineups that didn't look comfortable together this season.  I think that this had an effect on the offense, as guys didn't have time to get comfortable.  I would have rather seen this kind of experimentation in the second half of a blowout.  I liked that he injected Bullock and Dinwiddie into the rotation, though.

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

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Game Recap #9 - Pistons at Clippers

(5-4) PISTONS 96
(6-4) CLIPPERS 101

Box Score


- File this one away as a big missed opportunity.  In theory, there's no shame in a road loss to a team that most have considered a true contender to win a title for the last few years.  This isn't theory though.  It's the actuality that the Clippers were without their starting backcourt, and that the Pistons held a 17 point lead at one point in the first half.  This game offered the potential of a 7-3 start, a 4-2 west coast road trip, and a win to wipe away the stink of an ugly loss in Sacramento the other night.  Instead, the Pistons enter the last game of their trip in desperate need of a win.  A loss to the Lakers will completely dampen the excitement of the 5-1 start for me.

- The Pistons' inability to guard PFs has carried over from last year.  Last year, Stan Van Gundy's choice to play Greg Monroe at PF made it difficult for Detroit to defend stretch fours.  This year, the lack of bulk at the PF position has made it impossible for Detroit to defend any PF who can bring physicality to the table.  DeMarcus Cousins caused problems on Wednesday night, Blake Griffin was an absolute terror on Saturday.  Griffin was 9-16 against the Pistons...from inside the paint.  If he wanted a shot at the basket, he got one.  It's nice having guys like Ilyasova and Tolliver who can keep the defense honest.  It may be overkill having two of them since neither can defend a bruiser.

- Teams are getting creative with ways to foul Andre Drummond.  The Clippers spent a good portion of the second half intentionally fouling Andre Drummond.  He ended up going 6-14 from the free throw line, about par for the course for him.  The "Hack-a-Whoever" strategy has been discussed ad nauseam by NBA fans; I won't go there.  What I thought was interesting, was how the Clippers got Andre to the FT line with 53 seconds left to play.  Intentional fouls with less than two minutes are, by rule, supposed to yield two free throws and the ball.  When the Pistons ran a pick-and-roll with a minute to go, the Clippers "fought through it", drawing a whistle and putting Drummond at the line.  It wasn't called an intentional, because by the letter, it wasn't.  Everybody knew what it was though.  Drummond hit both free throws, minimizing the damage, but if that's going to be allowed, the Pistons' offensive staple is off the table during the last two minutes of a game.  Every advanced scout in the league is passing that one along in preparation for games against Detroit.

- Burn all of the Saturday afternoon NBA tip-offs during college football season.  I wasn't able to watch the full game for other reasons, but why would you start a basketball game when some of the day's best football games are kicking off?  TV ratings would tell you that this isn't a battle that the NBA is going to win.  On another material note, these new Clippers uniforms are trash.  If the NBA had a gimmicky knock-off like the Arena Football League, they would wear uniforms like what the Clippers have on this year.

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Thursday, November 12, 2015

Game Recap #8 - Pistons at Kings

(5-3) PISTONS 92
(2-7) KINGS 101

Box Score


- It was just one of those nights.  DeMarcus Cousins, a great player no doubt, but one who came into last night with 15 made threes in 354 career games, went 4-5 from beyond the arc, all in the first half.  Rudy Gay shot 71.4% on a large amount of contested shots.  Even Rajon Rondo, one of the worst shooters among NBA guards, hit a couple of jumpers, including a back-breaking three at the end of the 3rd quarter.  The Pistons certainly didn't bring their best to Sacramento on Wednesday night, but with two minutes left, they had a chance to make it a two point game.  That was on a night where the league's most dysfunctional team came together and shot 56% from three.  I'll admit it's concerning to lose to this Kings team, but the way it happened just had me shrugging my shoulders and shaking my head all night.  To me this seems like a loss due to tired legs and hot shooting from a team that hasn't been hot much this year.

- That being said, the Pistons need to start searching for solutions to fix their sludge-filled offense.  After last night's performance, the Pistons now sit at 22nd in the league in Offensive Rating, checking in at 101 points per 100 possessions.  They're 28th in TS% (49.6), 22nd in 3P% (31.8), 22nd in 2P% (46.3) and dead last in FT% (64.6).  That last part is discouraging, because the Pistons rank in the in the top half of the league in Free Throw Rate.  They're just lighting points on fire with missed free throws.  The other parts are concerning, because it tells me they're struggling to generate good looks.  There's enough talent on this team to not be this bad at putting the ball in the basket.  Stan Van Gundy needs to get more creative with the offense, and find better ways to run the pick-and-roll more effectively.

- There shouldn't be a more poorly officiated game than we saw last night the rest of the year.  On multiple occasions, the Pistons were called for a foul after DeMarcus Cousins pushed a defender into the ball-handler on a Kings pick-and-roll.  I'm not trying to say there was an agenda, or that the Pistons got screwed, because they didn't.  Detroit didn't play well enough to win that game last night.  I'm just saying that the Pistons ended up on the bad end of a game that was officiated incompetently.

- Despite what we saw last night, the Kings are not well built.  Due to the fact that the Pistons didn't have anybody well-equipped to guard DeMarcus Cousins, they found themselves constantly rotating after double teams in the post.  Whenever the Kings kicked it out, the Pistons were well aware of the fact that they didn't have to rotate to cover Rajon Rondo.  That eliminated numerous scoring opportunities for the Kings.  Rondo would be fine as the Kings' PG if they were playing Cousins at C with a stretch four.  It works less efficiently when they play Cousins as a PF alongside guys like Willie Cauley-Stein and Kosta Koufos.

- The game against the Lakers on Sunday is a must-win.  The Pistons aren't going to be favored against the Clippers on Saturday, so I'm assuming that's a loss for the sake of examining the game against the lesser LA team.  After the Pistons started 5-1, they'll be staring down a 5-4 record with a loss to the Clippers.  That means a loss to the lowly Lakers would drop the Pistons to 5-5.  I think I speak for everyone when I say that's the last thing this team needs after the emotional high of the first six games of the season.

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Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Game Recap #7 - Pistons at Warriors

(5-2) PISTONS 95
(8-0) WARRIORS 109

Box Score


- Surprise, the Warriors are just a better team than the Pistons.  On a night where Kentavious Caldwell-Pope limited Steph Curry to a pedestrian night by his standards, Golden State was still 14 points better than the Pistons.  The Warriors got 37 points from their bench, won the turnover battle and shot 57% from three.  The Pistons just didn't have enough in the tank on a back-to-back to overcome that.  The good news here is that despite the way the final score turned out, the Pistons did go toe-to-toe with the champs for three quarters.  The starters got the game to within 4 points going into the fourth quarter before the bench crew came in and facilitated an 18-6 Warriors run that put things out of reach for good.  While it was somewhat satisfying to see that Detroit's starters could do battle with Golden State's, tonight was yet another reminder that Detroit's lack of depth is going to limit this team's upside until it's either addressed or derails their playoff pursuit.

- KCP played the best defensive game of his career.  Coming off a night where he did a pretty good job on Damian Lillard, KCP was tremendous against Steph Curry.  He showed that his feet were quick enough to keep with Curry off the dribble, he was tough fighting through screens and when Curry was moving off the ball, KCP was always attached to his hip.  In KCP's first two seasons, you would constantly hear people talk about him as a great defender, but you didn't always see it.  It was hard to miss in Oakland on Monday night.

- Stanley Johnson is a living, breathing basketball player.  Tonight we saw the first signs of life from the rookie.  He was decisive attacking the basket, connected on 50% of his three point attempts and was active in the open floor.  Stan Van Gundy rewarded his efforts with a season-high 32 minutes, a good portion of which came with the starting crew.  A couple more performances like this and better consistency on nights in between, and I think we could see him in the starting lineup by Christmas.

- Steve Blake is not good at basketball, and Spencer Dinwiddie is presumably worse.  I was pretty excited that Spencer Dinwiddie slipped to the Pistons at pick #38 in the 2014 draft.  I thought they were getting a guy who was a top-25 or better talent because of an injury.  We're 17 months removed from that night, and I have zero confidence that he can be even a pedestrian NBA player.  That he's buried on the bench behind this version of Steve Blake is telling.  Blake had five turnovers to one assist, is atrocious on defense, and struggled to get the ball much past half court at times.  Dinwiddie is bad enough in practice that Stan Van Gundy doesn't trust him over Blake.  If it's any consolation (it's not), the 2nd round of the 2014 draft hasn't been good.  There's maybe three guys who went after Dinwiddie I would've rather had: Nikola Jokic, Jordan Clarkson and Glenn Robinson III.  With Mario Chalmers off the table, there are very few options for improving the backup PG spot until Jennings is back.  The Pistons play 23 more games between now and Christmas, the presumed return of Jennings.  Build in another 5-10 games for Jennings to get his legs underneath him and we're talking about 34% of the season between now and when Jennings might be back to something resembling 100%.  Fixing the backup PG spot remains important.

- Reggie Jackson's limp in the 4th quarter shouldn't be a long-term concern.  It may have looked like an ankle or a knee thing, but he just took a shot in the thigh.  After it happened, he went to the bench where he presumably cooled down, which only makes that kind of injury worse in the moment.  However, that's the kind of thing that's just completely gone after a few days.  He may be slighlty gimpy in Sacramento on Wednesday, but he'll assuredly be 100% by the time Detroit heads home.

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Monday, November 9, 2015

Game Recap #6 - Pistons at Blazers

(5-1) PISTONS 120
(4-3) BLAZERS 103

Box Score


- It doesn't get much better than 4th quarter Reggie Jackson on the west coast, apparently.  Jackson has willed the Pistons to victory in the first two games of this road trip, putting an otherwise stagnant offense on his back.  He was 10-11 from the field over tonight's final nine minutes and was largely responsible for a 9 point deficit turning into a 17 point win.  Jackson's shot selection was terrible in the 1st quarter, and he didn't have a single assist going into halftime.  Of course, none of that matters when you consider that he finished with 40 points, 5 assists and 5 rebounds.   The hemming and hawing about his contract extension this summer can be buried with the Blazers, that is of course, once they find the body.

- Andre Drummond's offensive game is coming around slowly, and he looks like a true franchise cornerstone.  There's a mass of wild statistics to put what Drummond has done so far this season into perspective.  You could go with the fact that he, Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar are the only players in NBA history to post three 20-20 games in their team's first six games.  You could look at the fact that among active NBA players, there is a total of six 25-25 games, and Andre Drummond has three of them.  Whatever you go with, it leads you to the realization that Drummond is a legitimate piece to build around, and deserving of every dollar he collects from here on out.  He hit a couple of nice hook shots and had one possession where he used some nifty footwork to maneuver around 3 Blazers for a powerful jam.  If he can find any consistency in his offensive game, we're looking at an All-NBA 1st or 2nd team player.

- The Blazers cracked the door open so it was a little bit easier for the Pistons to kick it down.  Portland didn't do themselves any favors by turning the ball over 23 times, which led to 25 Piston points.  It's hard to lose by 17 when you shoot 54% from the field and don't really get walloped in the FT and three point department.  The one way you do that is by turning it over 23 times for 25 points.  The Blazers are a better team than I gave them credit for in the preseason, but if things go off the tracks this year, they are going to derail in a major way.  Also, I think their frontcourt may be having Drummond-related nightmares for weeks.

- The Pistons won't come home from this road trip any worse than .500 on the season.  Matchups with the Clippers and Warriors pose potential problems, but they're balanced out by matchups with a hapless Lakers team and a Kings squad that might not have DeMarcus Cousins.  Even if Cousins is ready to go, it's not unreasonable at all to pick the Pistons in that one.  Regardless of how things play out over the next week on the Pacific coast, expectations are on the rise for this Pistons team.  Assuming the bench doesn't drag them down over the long run, a playoff bid is an absolute must for this core.

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