(14-11) PISTONS 118
- Best performance of the season? Probably. The Pistons have had more exciting wins, for sure, but they haven't had many games like this where they've been able to dominate a competent opponent. The only other instance among their 14 wins was a 23-point W over Miami. The Pistons put up 114.6 points per 100 on a defense that came into the night only allowing 101.0, good for a tie for 5th in the league with our very own Pistons. Everything was clicking tonight, with the exception of a quiet night for Andre Drummond. This one was a good demonstration of how successful this group can be when KCP and Ersan Ilyasova show up, and the bench just does an average job.
- When do we start talking about this defense as one of the league's elite? The Pistons held the Pacers, who came into the night at 106.0 points per 100 possessions, to a meager 95.0 tonight, thanks to a really solid defensive performance from Marcus Morris on Paul George. That'll put Detroit in 5th for Defensive Rating coming out of Saturday night's games. The Pistons do a few things well that allow them to produce a sum greater than the individual parts: they don't foul much, they clean up the defensive glass, and they can turn you over. It's fair to say that KCP and Marcus Morris are the only above average individual, man-to-man defenders the Pistons have. To get results like Detroit has this year, without a handful of stoppers, is a testament to the coaching staff doing a good job focusing on the right areas to produce a strong defense. Detroit has a top five defense despite boasting below average opponent 2P% and 3P%; let that soak in.
- The Eastern Conference playoff picture is a mess. Detroit's win vaulted them to 14-11, good for...8th in the Eastern Conference. A .560 win percentage would have been good for 5th in the Eastern Conference last year. The Pistons are also a mere 1 GB of 3rd place in the Eastern Conference, and only 2.5 GB of having the best record in the conference. This feels like the kind of year where a certain Matt Barnes heave is going to either hurt playoff seeding or hurt playoff existence in a very painful way.
- At least a split of the next two games is arguably a must. For reasons mentioned directly above, the Pistons can't afford to go 0-2 to close out this three game homestand. They'll get an underwhelming Clippers team on Monday night, in what will be LA's fifth straight road game. It would be nice to see Detroit exact some revenge for the game they choked away in Los Angeles. After that, the Pistons host a Boston team that has a scary amount of depth. Winning at least one of those two is very important, because the Pistons play their next three on the road in Chicago, Miami and Atlanta. I'll be understanding of a 2-3 stretch over the next five. Find a way to go 4-1 in the next five and I'll proclaim this team to be the Warriors, but on bath salts.
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: Despite his struggles shooting the ball, KCP has now finished atop these rankings in three of the Pistons' last five games. He scored well against Indy, but I was more impressed by the other stuff that he did. He tied his season high in rebounds (7) and steals (4), and crushed his previous career high (5) with 8 assists. I rag on his game quite a bit, but it's obvious that KCP has positive value on the defensive end. When he gives the Pistons anything offensively, he's a net positive. When he has a night like he did against Indy, he's not going to miss the top spot.
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2 - Marcus Morris: Mook had his offense working early, and his defense bothered Paul George all night long, boiling over in a technical foul in the second half. Morris' stats don't jump off the screen, but there's a reason I don't just grade on stats. He could have had a KCP-esque shooting night and still finished high for frustrating the league's third-highest scorer and holding him to less than half of his average output.
3 - Reggie Jackson: You'll never catch me complaining about a night where a Pistons PG has 9 assists and only 1 turnover. Mix in 21 points on 8-17 shooting, and you've got a really solid night. He had a bit of trouble staying in front of George Hill, but that's really the only complaint I have for Reggie in this one. I still think he'll draw a few looks for one of the Eastern Conference's final guard spots come All-Star time, especially with Kyrie Irving having missed so much time.
4 - Ersan Ilyasova: An efficient scoring night, a highlight reel block on Paul George and yet another drawn charge, which makes 23 on the year. I had a really hard time not putting Ersan above Reggie tonight; probably couldn't have gone wrong either way.
5 - Steve Blake: 11 points on 6 FGA and twice as many assists (4) as turnovers (2). Blake's really turned the corner over the last five or six games. With tonight's 3-4 performance, he's now above 30% from three on the season, and approaching respectability. No need to see Spencer Dinwiddie until Blake turns back into a pumpkin.
6 - Andre Drummond: A pedestrian night against an opponent that doesn't boast a daunting frontcourt. Not like the Pistons needed him to be dominant, but it would've been nice to see Dre assert himself more.
7 - Aron Baynes: 6 points, 7 rebounds, an assist and a block. Nothing to write home about, nothing to complain about. Baynes is just a guy, for better or worse. For some reason, a career 82.8% FT shooter, Baynes is only at 69% from the line this year. Still a somewhat small sample (only 26 FTA), but surprising nonetheless.
8 - Stanley Johnson: Finished 3-4 in the paint and 1-6 outside of it. The rookie has reached Josh Smith levels of ineptitude as a jump shooter.
9 - Anthony Tolliver: Exists, made a couple shots.