Game Recap/Notes: Game #20, Pistons 121 - Celtics 114. (10-10)
A different win for the Pistons, but a good win. It was a bit a shootout where both teams were just playing good offense more than there was bad defense.
Ish played one of his (if not the) best games of the year. 19 points on just 13 equivalents, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists with no turnovers. He was controlling the game, and took full advantage of Isaiah Thomas guarding him being combined with the lack of rim protection to get into the paint and was able to finish, as well as being able to hit a few jumpers. Simply put, this was Ish in his best form. He was pushing the pace and finding guys for shots, and shooting when there were openings available for him.
Defensively, Isaiah Thomas did have a good game but Ish generally did a good job on him and it was not until the Celtics started to involve the much less capable Tobias Harris into pick and rolls that Thomas really got going. One of his buckets down the stretch could've been straight out of 2K, where the Celtics pressed and Ish got the ball and just outran everyone for a layup. And since it has been thrown around a bit the last couple of days, the Pistons turning the ball over as little as they have is largely a credit to Ish.
Offensively KCP continued his good play, with 25 points on 18 equivalents, (although he got bailed out on a 3 pointer that they called a foul on.) to go along with 4 assists against just 1 turnover. He hit several big shots, and had pretty good shot selection, although there were a couple shots that were awful. At this point, there are really only 2 things to worry about offensively, the first is whether or not he can keep up his general good shooting, the second is whether or not he will let a couple of good performances go to his head or not. He has had a bad tendency so far in his career to start taking shots he shouldn't be after he gets hot, and him knowing that he will have games like tonight where he is able to get open and can take 18 shots in a game and it is good. But there will also be games where he doesn't get open and he will need to not force things. The early returns on his offense though are very good, particularly his passing, as there is no way that is fake.
Defensively it was mostly the same story it has been all year. Still very, very good, just not quite the level he was last year. He was switched onto Thomas a couple times later in the game and got roasted, which isn't a huge deal because Isaiah is good, but last year KCP didn't get roasted by anyone who didn't have a legitimate size advantage on him. My hope is still that once Reggie comes back SVG will be more comfortable unleashing KCP against point guards again. Either way, right now it appears KCP has successfully settled into being a rock solid 2 way role player and it has been a big boost to the Pistons.
Once again the Celtics seemed ok with letting guards switch onto Morris, and unlike last time, Morris made good on the mismatches tonight. Finishing the night with 20 points on 14 equivalents with 3 assists. He also got into a little bit of a personal battle with Crowder which Morris decidedly won. But Morris was mostly in his best form tonight, attacking mismatches and avoiding going one on one against Crowder, and generally playing hard. Defensively he also came out of the game with 3 blocks, and one of them was a huge swat that was almost comical. Wonderful game for Morris, and it was nice to see a couple of 3s get in as well. Given that he started off poorly last year as well, I am not too worried about whether or not Morris will start hitting 3s at some point, but it would be nice if he could do it sooner rather than later.
Admittedly it was a bit of an odd game for Tobias. His scoring was not as lethal as it often is, with him needing 20 shots to get his 20 points, but instead he got it done with his passing, finishing with 4 assists against no turnovers. Defensively he was often matched up against Al Horford, and he mostly did a good job as Horford finished with just 9 points in his 31 minutes. But Tobias was absolutely the main culprit in Thomas finding a groove. After finding little success running pick and rolls against Andre, the Celtics started to go at Tobias, and Tobias got cooked pretty bad. Although to his credit, down the stretch he made several very nice defensive plays after being switched onto Thomas.
Just so you know, the Celtics started to bang the drum in the 2nd quarter. First time this year that a team has really done it. Andre split the pair on two straight trips, and the Celtics stopped. He finished the night 4/7 from the line. Like man, it had to be so freaking satisfying that 3rd time down the court when they didn't foul him, I was so turned up. He will be tested on it more this year for sure, but he has obviously made a huge improvement and it is a credit to him.
As for everything else, he was a freaking monster. Andre was the best player on the court for all 35 minutes he was on it, scoring 20 points on 16 equivalents, and grabbing 17 boards. He was just too much for the Celtics, especially on the offensive glass where he finished with 8 of his boards. He also finally did a pretty decent job out of the post, after like 4 or 5 straight games of not getting hardly anything to go from there. His 2 assists were a nice little top off to a wonderful offensive night for Andre, who like the rest of the starting lineup, was in his best form. Primarily working in the pick and roll, attacking the offensive glass, and getting a couple of touches in the post but not too many.
Defensively, even though Boston scored a lot and Andre had a couple bad possessions, one of which was a dumb double team and a couple of screw ups trying to keep with Kelly Olynyk, but he had a really good defensive game. He was the primary reason that Horford did so little on offense, as Andre once again was freaking masterful in his dance to wall off Thomas from the paint, and then scurry over to Horford to prevent an open jumper. Horford's lack of offensive impact combined with Thomas' lack of assists (just 4 assists against 2 turnovers) are great signs of how well Andre controlled the pick and roll. Excellent game from Andre.
Just did his thing, but was super efficient tonight. 12 points on just 6 equivalents along with 7 boards and a pair of assists. Seeing a couple of 3s go in for him was (just like with Morris) very nice as well given how he has struggled out of the gate from deep. I was surprised by the Celtics not attacking him as much defensively given how much success they found going at Tobias in the pick and roll, although Leuer also yielded a few of Olynyk's buckets. Still a really nice game for Leuer, he has really settled in.
Not actually a very good night for Beno, no points and missed 3 shots and just a pair of assists. The bench looked like last year especially for a stretch in the 4th quarter and Beno did not help that, especially defensively. That said, given how steady he has been this year I think I can forgive one off night.
Primary culprit of the bench mob death tonight. He did manage to go 4-4 from the line, but his 3 turnovers were really bad and he managed to commit 4 fouls in just 12 minutes. I'm ready for center Leuer and Stanley to come back. (To be clear about something real quick, my desire to cut Baynes from the rotation has more to do with how good Leuer has been than Baynes being bad. Baynes is fine, good even as a backup. I just think Leuer would be better.)
Got all the backup wing minutes, and didn't really do much. Went 0-3 from the field, had an assist and a turnover with a pair of fouls committed. This is the worry with Hilliard, is whether or not he can consistently be any good at skills other than creating his own shot, because as of now he brings almost nothing else (although his defense looks much more passable than it did last year) and I'm still not convinced that he can create his own look against NBA defenses with any sort of consistency. For example, he got Jonas Jerebko switched onto him in this game, and he went out beyond the line and tried to beat him off the dribble and simply could not shake him. That just doesn't bode all that well for a guy who is trying to make a living on creating his own offense. That said, I like that he is getting minutes and even though I hate Stanley getting DNP'd I am excited to see what Hilliard can do with extended time of getting all the backup SG minutes.
Cannot emphasize enough that I don't really think this was a bad defensive performance as much as a really good offensive one. It was great to see the Pistons firing on on cylinders offensively as well, and I think both Ish and KCP are taking much better shots now, which was a problem just a littlte bit ago. Andre was brilliant again, and the Pistons are now back up to .500 and (technically) sit at 7th in the conference, which is right in line with (my own at least) expectations without Reggie. I hate Stanley getting DNPs, but am excited to see if Hilliard can be anything or not. KCP's passing improvement is the most important thing he could've improved other than become a elite shooter (like JJ Reddick shooter) and it is great to see. One thing I wanted to just mention that doesn't have anything to do with this game, but I've seen some people say that Andre has regressed, and that isn't really true. His numbers are down a bit because he is playing less, his per 36 are pretty much in line with last year (some slightly higher, some slightly lower) and his advanced numbers are largely up (by small margins) which is very good given that he is without his pick and roll partner.
What do you think? Can KCP keep up his shooting? Is Andre Drummond elite?