(12-9) PISTONS 111
- That went well. Referring to both tonight and the four game homestand as a whole. I didn't have any expectations for the Pistons to find a way to lose twice to this Lakers team in the same season. The Lakers don't have enough talent to catch the Pistons off guard twice. With the 4-0 homestand, Detroit moves into a tie for 7th place in the Eastern Conference, sitting mere percentage points behind the 6th place Hornets. That's a pretty good landing spot for a team who has played the hardest part of their schedule with no bench and an offense that you could only call "average" if you were being generous.
- Kobe's farewell tour is a sad affair. I've personally never been a big fan of Kobe Bryant, for reasons that have more to do with him as a person than his game. That being said, I hate to see him end his career like this. There's clearly less than nothing left in the tank, and at this point he's just jacking up shots and cashing his paycheck. It's not good to have that as our most recent memory of the second-best SG in NBA history, and it's not good for the development of a talented, young Lakers backcourt. Enough about this game though; there's little to take away from shellacking a 3-17 team grasping on to the final breaths of a legend.
- More about Monday night's game. I don't have time for game previews, and the Lakers are a joke so most of this space is going to focus on the showdown with the Hornets. Charlotte enters the contest with the league's 10th best offense and 10th best defense. The defense part doesn't surprise, because that's what these last few Hornets teams have been built on. The offense is humming thanks to the offseason acquisition of G/F Nicolas Batum. Batum's been a godsend for Charlotte this season, posting 17.2 PPG, 6.6 RPG and 4.5 APG with a 57.9 TS%. Kemba Walker's upped his efficiency as well this season, and the Pistons' top ten defense will apparently be getting a test in the Queen City on Monday night. I haven't watched any Hornets games this season, but it appears they're operating smoothly thanks to good ball security. Charlotte leads the league with a meager Turnover Rate of 11.7%.
- Whether or not they have staying power is TBD, but the Hornets have been legit thus far. Charlotte enters Monday night at 11-8 on the year, but 7-3 in their last 10. Two of those three losses came to the Warriors and Cavs, and the other against a respectable Knicks team. Six of the seven wins (MIL, WAS, SAC, PHI, POR, BKN) were simply Charlotte feasting on inferior competition, but their most recent win was a solid road victory in Chicago. It was their second win over the Bulls this season, and the other saw the Hornets drop 130 in regulation.
- The matchups seem to favor the Pistons on paper. Sitting down and looking at the Hornets' roster, you would have to give the Pistons the advantage at four of the five starting positions. Kemba Walker's been improved this season, but with better passing numbers and more defensive ability, give me Reggie Jackson at PG. Andre Drummond is an obvious pick over 95% of the league's Cs, and that gets even easier with Al Jefferson out. Marcus Morris versus PJ Hairston is a laugher, and Ersan has better efficiency numbers than Marvin Williams. The place where it gets sketchy is SG, where the Pistons will need one of KCP's stellar defensive performances against Nic Batum. Batum would have an argument to be the Eastern Conference's starting SG if the All Star game were tomorrow (I'd go with Jimmy Butler, but the difference isn't massive). Not allowing Batum to set the tone will be huge. Keep him from establishing himself and the rest should take care of itself. Jeremy Lamb and Jeremy Lin give Charlotte an advantage off the bench, so hopefully Steve Blake finds a time machine and KCP is ready to play 40+ minutes.
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: KCP topped 20 points for the third time this season, and most importantly, only played 31 minutes. He was 9-14 from the field, 1-2 from beyond the arc and added 4 rebounds, 2 assists and 4 steals. Those steals contributed to his offensive efficiency, but so did smart, aggressive play in the halfcourt. The level of competition helped, but in any case, it was nice to see a strong offensive performance from KCP.
2 - Andre Drummond: Just another ho-hum, 18 point, 15 rebound performance from one of the best, most productive big men in basketball. He did it all in 24 minutes of play too; give him a normal level of minutes and he easily cranks out a 20-20 game. Roy Hibbert's not what he used to be, but another good night nonetheless.
3 - Reggie Jackson: I think I would have done fine to put any of KCP, Andre or Reggie in the top spot for tonight's game. Reggie finishes third because of the importance of KCP bouncing back and Dre having a huge night in 75% of his normal time played. Jackson's come out and looked more assertive as a passer lately, and he had a nice behind-the-back dish to Marcus Morris on the fast break in the first half. He'll battle for one of the Eastern Conference's final backcourt All Star berths if he can keep this up and the Pistons are in line for a playoff bid come February.
4 - Anthony Tolliver: Finished one point shy of a double-double, thanks to yet another off night shooting the ball (3-9 fg, 2-7 3p). However, he snagged 13 rebounds and was the only reserve with a +/- in double digits.
5 - Steve Blake: Played a really solid first half, making it easier for Stan Van Gundy to limit his starting PG's minutes. Finished with a good line of 7 points, 5 assists and 4 rebounds, but he falls behind Tolliver in the pecking order for turning the ball over 4 times. He's reclaimed the backup PG spot from Spencer Dinwiddie.
6 - Ersan Ilyasova: Not sure how you commit 4 fouls in 13 minutes against a team with zero offensive weapons. Also managed to turn the ball over 3 times in his limited run. On the plus side, he was 3-5 from the field.
7 - Marcus Morris: Came back down to Earth after a run of solid offensive play in the last three games, which is fine, because the Pistons didn't need his offense.
8 - Stanley Johnson: Is rookie, is bound to struggle offensively from time to time. Did a good job contributing in other ways (6 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal).
9 - Aron Baynes: Missed a few bunnies, which led to a 1-6 shooting night. Did grab 8 rebounds, but overall, he wasn't a positive contributor.