(6-4) CLIPPERS 101
- File this one away as a big missed opportunity. In theory, there's no shame in a road loss to a team that most have considered a true contender to win a title for the last few years. This isn't theory though. It's the actuality that the Clippers were without their starting backcourt, and that the Pistons held a 17 point lead at one point in the first half. This game offered the potential of a 7-3 start, a 4-2 west coast road trip, and a win to wipe away the stink of an ugly loss in Sacramento the other night. Instead, the Pistons enter the last game of their trip in desperate need of a win. A loss to the Lakers will completely dampen the excitement of the 5-1 start for me.
- The Pistons' inability to guard PFs has carried over from last year. Last year, Stan Van Gundy's choice to play Greg Monroe at PF made it difficult for Detroit to defend stretch fours. This year, the lack of bulk at the PF position has made it impossible for Detroit to defend any PF who can bring physicality to the table. DeMarcus Cousins caused problems on Wednesday night, Blake Griffin was an absolute terror on Saturday. Griffin was 9-16 against the Pistons...from inside the paint. If he wanted a shot at the basket, he got one. It's nice having guys like Ilyasova and Tolliver who can keep the defense honest. It may be overkill having two of them since neither can defend a bruiser.
- Teams are getting creative with ways to foul Andre Drummond. The Clippers spent a good portion of the second half intentionally fouling Andre Drummond. He ended up going 6-14 from the free throw line, about par for the course for him. The "Hack-a-Whoever" strategy has been discussed ad nauseam by NBA fans; I won't go there. What I thought was interesting, was how the Clippers got Andre to the FT line with 53 seconds left to play. Intentional fouls with less than two minutes are, by rule, supposed to yield two free throws and the ball. When the Pistons ran a pick-and-roll with a minute to go, the Clippers "fought through it", drawing a whistle and putting Drummond at the line. It wasn't called an intentional, because by the letter, it wasn't. Everybody knew what it was though. Drummond hit both free throws, minimizing the damage, but if that's going to be allowed, the Pistons' offensive staple is off the table during the last two minutes of a game. Every advanced scout in the league is passing that one along in preparation for games against Detroit.
- Burn all of the Saturday afternoon NBA tip-offs during college football season. I wasn't able to watch the full game for other reasons, but why would you start a basketball game when some of the day's best football games are kicking off? TV ratings would tell you that this isn't a battle that the NBA is going to win. On another material note, these new Clippers uniforms are trash. If the NBA had a gimmicky knock-off like the Arena Football League, they would wear uniforms like what the Clippers have on this year.
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.
*Disclaimer: I watched the first half live, but had to watch a replay of the 2nd half. That may tilt these scores towards 2nd half performances.
1 - Andre Drummond: He was once again the Pistons' top player, and I thought he outplayed DeAndre Jordan somewhat thoroughly. He was 6-14 from the line as the Clippers chose to auto-foul quite a bit in the 2nd half. That's not great, but with the Pistons' offense just barely over a point per possession, we just need him to hit 50% before the math makes the auto-foul a moot point. Regardless, he did all the things we expect from him, finishing with 18 points and 19 rebounds.
2 - Reggie Jackson: He finished with 20 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists after starting the first quarter with a hot hand. He matched those assists with 4 turnovers though, and I didn't think his shot selection was very good as the game wore on. Still, I think Jackson had an overall positive effect on the game.
3 - Ersan Ilyasova: I would have loved to put Ilyasova at number two, but I just couldn't do it. If you've been reading these game recaps, you probably already know why I'm penalizing him: his defense. Blake Griffin had an absolutely monster game, and Ilyasova could do little to even slow him down. The foul he got called for on the jump ball late hurt too, and was painfully unnecessary. That being said, Ilyasova was a huge piece of the Pistons offense. He only needed 8 FGA to score 20 points, aided by a 3-4 showing from beyond the arc. That's the kind of efficiency the Pistons need from him. I'll take even half of that on a nightly basis. His 9 FTAs were the third-most in his career.
4 - Stanley Johnson: The rookie is continuing to show more promise than he did over the first four or five games. He was 3-4 on shots inside the arc, and truly 1-3 beyond the arc since one of his attempts was a end-of-quarter heave. His one make was from the corner, which is where he needs to continue to spot up. I thought he was solid on defense too, as far as I could tell.
5 - Aron Baynes: Baynes ranks here almost by default. He gets bonus points for a quiet performance (6p, 2r, 3-5 fg) because the guys who fall below him were clear negatives tonight. I would have liked to see him spend more time guarding Blake Griffin, as scary as that thought is.
6 - Kentavious Caldwell-Pope: KCP didn't really have it at either end of the floor tonight. I don't think he truly defended Jamal Crawford poorly enough to yield 37 points, but he didn't lock him down either, obviously. At the other end, he was 0-4 from deep, including a miss that was way off with the game on the line late. It was a discouraging game, but I'm willing to write it off if he bounces back against the Lakers tonight.
7 - Marcus Morris: Morris picked a bad night to have his first true clunker in a Pistons uniform. Morris was 2-10 from the field, and of his 8 missed shots, only one came from inside the paint. I expected there to be a game like this, just based off of his shot selection. That it came in a game where the Pistons had a real chance to get a quality win on the road makes it more painful than the expectation. There will probably be more nights like this, hopefully they come in lower leverage situations.
8 - Anthony Tolliver: Much like Ilyasova, Tolliver could do little to stop Blake Griffin from getting wherever he wanted to get. Unlike Ilyasova, he was quiet offensively.
9 - Steve Blake: Offered little resistance on defense, and little production on offense. There's no point in playing him when you can offload his minutes to Stanley Johnson, who only got 21, and not feel the effect.