(4-3) BLAZERS 103
- 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.
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: There's no way to put what Reggie Jackson did in the 4th quarter into words. Just go watch it. Jackson was absolutely unconscious, en route to a 26 point final period. He was 10-11 from the field in the last nine minutes of tonight's game. The Pistons were down 94-85 when he checked back into the game for good. By my count, that means that Detroit outscored the Blazers 35-9 on the back of Jackson's ridiculous performance. Not bad. Jackson has 40 4th quarter points in two games so far on this west coast trip. For reference, Steve Blake has scored 16 total points in 87 minutes this season. I could talk about his shot selection and court vision in the first 36 minutes, but who cares? This is our $80M PG, and he's getting the job done just fine right now, thanks.
2 - Andre Drummond: I'm telling you that a guy who put up a 29 point, 27 rebound, 3 block, 2 steal performance wasn't even the best player on his team tonight. I feel awful about it, because Drummond's energy was fantastic tonight. He got the job done in a variety of ways, too. He hit a few hook shots, demonstrating his skills on the block. He cleaned the glass at both ends, evidenced by his own gaudy numbers, and the fact that Portland's starting frontcourt only grabbed 7 rebounds in a combined 59 minutes of action. He even put up some defensive production for good measure, including a couple of mean-spirited stuffs on Mason Plumlee. I'll march my lazy ass to the NBA headquarters in NYC if he isn't the starting C for the Eastern Conference on February 13th. After tonight's incredible performance, Drummond is averaging 20.3 PPG, 20.3 RPG, 1.8 BPG and 1.8 SPG.
3 - Kentavious Caldwell-Pope: Drew a tough defensive matchup on Lillard for large portions of the night. Despite Lillard's line, I think KCP performed admirably. His overall statline ended up in a decent place (16 pts, 4 reb, 4 stl) and he was the only Piston other than Andre Drummond who played well prior to the 4th quarter. He's looked much better this season getting the job done off the dribble.
4 - Marcus Morris: Morris checking in at 4th is more of a reflection on the Pistons' lack of depth than it is on his play tonight. It took him 18 FGA to get to 13 points and he came away with both a technical and a flagrant foul. Mook had some good looks that just didn't fall, and it just seemed like it wasn't his night. He'll need to be better with matchups against Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green coming up on Monday night.
5 - Anthony Tolliver: Tolliver once again ate into a portion of Ilyasova's starter minutes. He wasn't anything special, posting just 6 points on 2-4 shooting. Normal caveat applies that I hate +/-, but Tolliver was a +21 in this one. Most of that came in the 4th quarter while Reggie Jackson's dial was set to "terminate".
6 - Ersan Ilyasova: Ilyasova was just kind of "there" tonight. 6 points on 2-5 shooting, 1 rebound, 1 steal and 4 assists. Sooner or later, he's going to have to start giving the Pistons more than what he has to this point.
7 - Steve Blake: Didn't turn the ball over in 14 minutes, but was only 1-4 from the field. I continue to count the minutes until I can feel happy counting the minutes until Brandon Jennings is back.
8 - Stanley Johnson: Only managed 3 points on 1-4 shooting, and produced nothing else of positive consequence to take note of. Johnson taking any size step in the right direction would be huge for the bench.