(4-13) NETS 87
- 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...
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 - Andre Drummond: Finished two rebounds short of a 20-20 performance and did a pretty good job defensively against Brook Lopez. There's no question that this Pistons team is among the worst in the league if you replace Andre Drummond with someone like Kosta Koufos or whoever you might consider a league average C. While his overall performance was strong, a 2-11 showing from the FT line hurt in a four point loss.
2 - Kentavious Caldwell-Pope: It's not good when your second-best offensive performer finishes 6-17 from the field, but that's the kind of night it was. KCP was aggressive tonight, especially off the dribble. Sometimes it felt like he was a little too aggressive, forcing up bad looks in traffic.
3 - Steve Blake: Finished with 7 points and 4 assists on 3-5 shooting, with only 2 turnovers. I usually have nothing but bad things to say about Blake, but I thought he played a quality game off the bench.
4 - Stanley Johnson: Johnson wasn't spectacular, but I thought he played an adequate game. It was refreshing to see him hit a few three pointers, and even if he didn't finish well, he traded in some of his usual mid-range jumpers for shots in the paint. As mentioned above, I think now's the time for him to move into the starting lineup.
5 - Ersan Ilyasova: Ilyasova notched 8 points and 5 rebounds in 26 minutes. He was 4-9 from the field, but only attempted one three, which he missed. He drew a huge charge on Thad Young with only a few minutes left and the Pistons trailing. Problem with that is, he got called for a block.
6 - Marcus Morris: It took Morris 10 shots to muster 7 points, and it's been a while since it felt like he has been a positive presence. Of those 10 shots, only two came from inside the paint, both of which were hits. He was 1-8 on jump shots for the night, which puts him at 33.2% on jumpers for the season.
7 - Anthony Tolliver: Tolliver slipped back into his poor shooting ways tonight, finishing 0-6 from the floor and 0-5 from three. He only avoids the last spot thanks to an atrocious game from Reggie Jackson.
8 - Reggie Jackson: There's no way around it, Reggie Jackson has been a disappointment this season. His assists are down, his decision making hasn't been clean as both a scorer and a distributor and he's clearly trying to do too much. Sure, he's had his moments, highlighted by his huge 4th quarter in Portland, but he's had some real stinkers too. Tonight's sludgefest was chief among them, but it's far from an isolated incident. It's the eighth time this season that Jackson has shot below 40% from the field. The Pistons are now 2-6 in those games. Reggie Jackson is a good basketball player, but he needs to be more consistent.