(16-11) HEAT 92
- Kid Clutch Play. KCP had a measly 7 points on 3-10 shooting with three minutes left and the Pistons trailing 89-86. Three minutes later, he doubled that output without missing another shot and the Pistons notched another big win against an Eastern Conference foe. KCP is 10-19 (52.6%) from the field and 5-11 (45.5%) from three in "clutch" situations, as measured by NBA.com. I reserve the right to still call him Kid Can't Play on his rough nights, but Kid Clutch Play is much more accurate lately.
- Big wins against the Eastern Conference pack. With their win over the Heat, the Pistons improved to 7-1 against the top six teams in the East. That's incredibly crucial in a conference where nine teams are separated by a total of two games. A win against the Hawks and some help from their competition, and the Pistons could find themselves in a tie for second place as they head home to celebrate Christmas.
- This is what good teams do. Good teams find a way to win when their best players don't have good/great nights. The Pistons are a good team, as evidenced by winning on a night when Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson only combined for 29 points on 12-28 shooting.
- Maybe this bench isn't trash after all. 36 points on 12-20 shooting, including 11-17 from beyond the arc. Raise your hand if you thought you'd ever see Stanley Johnson, Steve Blake and Anthony Tolliver have a night like they did at any point this season? Nobody? Yeah, me either.
- Another back-to-back against a rested opponent. According to Keith Langlois, Detroit's showdown with the Hawks tonight will be their 8th time playing the tail end of a back-to-back, and the 6th time they're playing a rested opponent when playing the tail of a back-to-back. The Pistons are 1-4 in the first five. So, in other words, the Pistons are 16-8 when not playing a fresh opponent after playing the night before. Detroit's struggling bench earlier in the year is probably to blame for this. However, other than KCP, who logged 40 minutes, nobody played heavy minutes in Miami. We should be in for a good one against the Hawks. Not sure why it's an 8:00 PM tip with no national TV coverage.
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: Hit the two or three biggest shots of the game and made Dwyane Wade work hard for his points (19 on 21 FGA). He didn't do much else, but he didn't really need to. He scored the Pistons' last seven points, as he once again found his jumper at just the right time. I've criticized his offense this season, but he's bumping towards respectability overall. He's been downright good in December, averaging 16.1 PPG with a 54.1 TS%.
2 - Stanley Johnson: Did all of his damage in the first half, but I'm not going to discount him for that, because he really hit when the Pistons needed him to. We're talking about a whole different outcome if he doesn't rack up 14 points in his first eight minutes of the contest. Sprinkle in 4 rebounds and 3 assists and it was a solid night, compared to Justise Winslow, who had a highlight reel dunk...for his only points of the night. He's now shooting 46.2% on corner threes after going 3-4 there last night. Compare that to 31.2% overall and it's obvious where he needs more looks.
3 - Steve Blake: Also saved the Pistons' bacon in the second quarter when it looked like Miami was going to walk all over a flat Detroit squad. Blake's now shooting 53.3% from three for the month of December. Seems like someone knows he's playing for his role with Brandon Jennings almost back.
4 - Reggie Jackson: He can't be Superman every night, but I thought he was adequate for the most part. 18 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 turnovers. Hit a big three with just over two minutes left to draw the Pistons within one. Needs to be ready for a pivotal matchup with Jeff Teague tonight.
5 - Andre Drummond: Got manhandled by Hassan Whiteside early, but played strong enough in the second half to contribute to the W. Hit a nice hook shot over Whiteside and simply bodied him out of the way for a dunk that was reminiscent of Shaq tossing aside his opponents. The rest of his night was less Shaq-like, and it would be nice to have early-season Andre back.
6 - Anthony Tolliver: Did what was asked of him, knocking down 3-5 from beyond the arc and contributing to the second quarter comeback. I'll take this Tolliver on a nightly basis and stop asking for a trade for another PF.
7 - Ersan Ilyasova: Seemed like he was just kind of "there" tonight. 8 points on 3-7 shooting to go with 8 rebounds, a steal and a block. I missed a large chunk of the first half, but I'm amazed by his -21 for the night.
8 - Marcus Morris: Not a banner Mook night. Didn't give the Pistons any offense to speak of, which he exacerbated with 5 turnovers. Will need him to have a bounceback game against Atlanta.
9 - Aron Baynes: Crikey!