(9-9) PISTONS 116
- 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...
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 - Reggie Jackson: Jackson did well to bounce back from his atrocious performance in Brooklyn on Sunday night. He had Patrick Beverley off balance all night, and whether it was in isolation or out of the pick-and-roll, he routinely got where he wanted to get on the floor. He played with more purpose, and it actually looked like there was a plan when he was attacking the defense. He took 10 of his 18 FGA in the paint, and when he wasn't in the lane, he connected on 5 of his 8 jumpers. Mix that in with 8 assists to only 2 turnovers and you have the kind of night you look for out of your franchise PG.
2 - Stanley Johnson: I thought about punishing him for fouling jump shooters twice late in the game, but I think his overall impact on this game was majorly positive. He notched his first career double-double, pulling in 10 rebounds to go with 19 points on 6-11 shooting (4-5 from three). Overall, I think the best part of his night, other than his excellent outside shooting, was that it didn't feel like he forced things. I only remember cringing as he loaded up to shoot just once, and that was on a wing three that fell. He has the energy and physical traits to be a good defender, but still needs to learn his opponents' tendencies. Harden cooked him a few times. All in all though, the best game the rookie has played this year.
3 - Andre Drummond: Dre finished this game with eye popping numbers (24 pts, 13 reb, 2 ast, 3 stl, 3blk) and won the individual matchup with Dwight Howard for the first time in four tries. That's not the whole story though. Drummond was 4-18 from the FT line, removed himself from the game early with two lazy fouls and drew a brutally stupid technical foul for knocking the ball out of Clint Capela's hands in a dead ball situation. It's hard to complain about his production, but it feels like he could have had a monster night if he was tuned in from the opening tip, or hit a few more free throws.
4 - Marcus Morris: Got off to a hot start early, notching 9 points, 3 rebounds and 2 assists in the first quarter. However, a knee to the lower back from Andre Drummond nearly knocked him out of the game in the 2nd quarter. He was able to return to action, but he wasn't the same from that point on. Mook finished with 12 points, 4 boards and 6 assists on 5-11 shooting.
5 - Aron Baynes: Like most Pistons fans, I wasn't wild about the contract Baynes got this summer. I think he's living up to it so far though. He came in with 9 minutes left in the first quarter after Drummond committed two silly fouls, and the Pistons didn't skip a beat. He kept Dwight Howard off the glass, hit a couple hook shots and added a couple of assists for good measure. 11 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists and a block on 5-8 shooting. Any team in the league will take what Baynes gave the Pistons tonight.
6 - Ersan Ilyasova: Ersan drew yet another charge, and notched 13 points on 11 FGA. He was only 1-4 from beyond the arc, but it felt like Ilyasova did his job tonight. Nothing more, nothing less.
7 - Kentavious Caldwell-Pope: KCP logged 44 minutes in this one, but only managed 4 points on 2-8 shooting. He finds himself at the bottom of this list because there simply weren't any overall worse options. I thought he was adequate defensively against James Harden, but the Pistons need KCP to be a two-way player. SVG needs to lighten his load so he can give the Pistons more consistent offense. The Pistons can aide this by blowing a team or two out and getting Darrun Hilliard some opportunities to earn minutes.