(8-0) WARRIORS 109
- 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.
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 - Kentavious Caldwell-Pope: Gets the top spot for a very successful game defending Steph Curry. The reigning MVP was only 7-18 from the field, and KCP's defense on Curry was the main reason the Pistons were able to hang around. He kept Curry in front of him when the ball was in his hands, and was sewed to his hip when he was running off of any of Golden State's numerous moving screens. Caldwell-Pope was fine on offense too, scoring 15 points on 6-12 shooting.
2 - Stanley Johnson: I thought Johnson had a breakout game coming on this road trip, I just didn't think it would come against a team with such a good stable of wings. He got the job done in the open floor, and going to the basket in the half court. 20 points on 9-14 shooting is by far the best performance of his young career. He also managed zero turnovers in 32 minutes played, and only collected two fouls in that time. More performances approaching this level will go a long way towards keeping the bench afloat until Brandon Jennings is back.
3 - Andre Drummond: This was arguably Drummond's worst game of the season. He looked like he was running on fumes due to Sunday night's barn burner. Festus Ezeli shoved Drummond around early in the game, and Golden State's frequent double teams on his post touches caused some problems. He finished the game with 14 points, 15 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocks, but he also produced 4 turnovers and was only 7-16 from the field. His overall statline looks good for the night, but he didn't really pass the eye test for me tonight. If this is what a down night looks like though, I'll take it.
4 - Marcus Morris: Morris was once again the instant offense that the Pistons needed him to be, generating his own looks in the post. He finished with 15 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals. It wasn't an extraordinary night for Morris, but you can't ask for much more than what he provided tonight.
5 - Reggie Jackson: Golden State chose to put Klay Thompson on Jackson in this one, and Thompson's length caused some problems. It took him 19 FGAs to get to 20 points, and his 6 turnovers overshadowed a 5 assist performance. To make matters worse, Jackson took a knee to the thigh and couldn't finish the game, despite his desire to. The injury is only being reported as a bruised thigh for now, and he shouldn't miss any extended time. He can't be Superman every night.
6 - Ersan Ilyasova: Missed both of his three point attempts, and saw his minutes dwindle to 17 as Stanley Johnson and Anthony Tolliver did more to keep themselves on the floor. The Pistons have to get more out of Ilyasova on a nightly basis.
7 - Steve Blake: Blake hit a couple of shots in the first half and did nothing else of value through the rest of this game. You can't live with a guy who turns the ball over 5 times and only has 1 assist. There were a few possessions where he barely had the ball-handling ability to initiate the offense. I remain in strong support of just not using a backup PG and instead letting Stanley Johnson bring the ball up. It can't possibly be any worse than what we've seen.
8 - Anthony Tolliver: Played 14 minutes, missed two shots and didn't do a single thing in any other part of the box score outside of grabbing one rebound. I was a huge Tolliver fan last season, but he's basically been nonexistent this year. I think he's being hurt by the fact that the second unit doesn't have a guy who can attack the pick-and-roll off the dribble and get good looks for his teammates.