(2-7) KINGS 101
- 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.
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: Drummond was quiet in the first half, going into the break with only 2 points and 5 rebounds. He was a big part of DeMarcus Cousins' three point show, (wisely?) giving him plenty of space to set up and shoot. In the second half, he played with much better energy and aggression, again demonstrating that despite his age, he is this team's leader. The biggest negatives of his night were his 5 turnovers and 5 fouls in 35 minutes.
2 - Marcus Morris: It took Morris 15 FGA to get to 16 points, but he filled the stat sheet otherwise. He notched 9 boards, 3 assists and 5 steals and was actually a +6 on the night. Despite what Rudy Gay produced, I thought Morris actually did a decent job defending him. He forced Gay into a bunch of tough shots. I care more about that in the long run than I do about whether or not they went in. As mentioned above, it was just one of those nights.
3 - Anthony Tolliver: Tolliver played his best game of the season, and it's becoming clear that even though he comes off the bench, Stan Van Gundy prefers him to Ilyasova. He knocked down 3 of his 5 shots, and recorded 4 assists and 4 rebounds to go with his 8 points. He's never going to be a defensive plus unless he's matched up with a similarly sized PF, but I still think he's a better defender than Ilyasova.
4 - Kentavious Caldwell-Pope: KCP has played heavy minutes so far this season, including 40 against the Kings. It showed in Sacramento as he struggled to find consistency on the offensive end of the floor. He had a chance to bring the Pistons within 2 late in the 4th, but clanked an open three off the side of the rim. SVG is going to either have to make a trade or unearth Reggie Bullock to get KCP some more rest going forward. Yeah, he's young, but the NBA is a grind where even the best-conditioned players can't survive playing 40 minutes every night.
5 - Reggie Jackson: Whether it was the lingering effects of his bruised thigh, the heavy minutes he's played on the west coast swing or just an off night, Jackson didn't have it in Sacramento. He needed 15 FGA to get to 16 points, only notched 3 assists against 2 turnovers and played poor defense against Rajon Rondo when matched up one-on-one. His Assist Rate is way down from his stint with the Pistons last year, and we're getting to the point where some changes need to be made to how the Pistons run the pick-and-roll to fix that.
6 - Ersan Ilyasova: Ilyasova's minutes continue to dwindle as Anthony Tolliver has picked up his shooting. Ilyasova's defensive struggles have just been too much to overlook in the last few games. Nobody was ever going to ask him to be much more than a guy who spaces the floor, but I'll admit I'm a little disappointed in Ilyasova to this point. He did draw two more charges last night, putting him at 9 on the season.
7 - Stanley Johnson: The rookie followed his best performance of the season with another rough shooting night. He was 0-3 from beyond the arc and 3-11 from the field overall. All three of those long attempts came from the top of the arc, where he's now shooting 2-15 on the season. He's 2-4 from the corners, a small sample no doubt, but I think the solution to his shooting woes is to find ways to generate more corner looks for him. That way, he has practice time to adjust to the longer three point line while he builds confidence on the shortest three point shots. Due to the bench largely being trash, the Pistons need the rookie to be more efficient. On the bright side, he did stuff the stat sheet with 5 boards, 2 assists and 2 steals.
8 - Steve Blake: I'll admit my bias here, just to get it on the record: I haven't liked Steve Blake since the day SVG traded for him. After a 1-5 performance from deep in Sacramento, he's now shooting 6-24 from three on the season. He hasn't been much better inside the arc, where he's a mere 4-13. He's not good defensively, and he's been a turnover machine (26.9 TOV%). That wasn't an issue tonight (3 assists, 0 turnovers), but it's not going away. Detroit can't wait until Brandon Jennings comes back to address this issue.