Game Recap/Notes: Game #20. Pistons 102 - Bucks 95. 11-9.
Reggie Jackson: I'm starting to think that Jackson is settling in. Although the 5 assists is not a big number, just 2 turnovers tonight. It was stated in the broadcast but it was very true, he struggled a bit to read the Bucks defense early in the game as they committed an almost comical amount of manpower to keeping the Jackson/Drummond combo out of the paint. But by the end of the 1st quarter Jackson seemed to figure it out and start hitting good passes as well as some shots. Also, even though the Bucks do not exactly show a fearsome group of PGs, his defense was not as much of an issue as it has been the past couple of games and he generally looked a wee bit less gimpy. So hopefully he is on the mend. And while, once again, the 5 assists is not a big number. Jackson took what the defense gave him and scored very efficiently, 23 points on just 14 shots (although like 4? where on FTs at the very end of the game) and he took only one shot by my count that was a dumb one. (A stepback 3 with a defender right on him with time on the shot clock) But he really does seem to be more comfortable with the offense and the players around him at this point, assuming that he keeps playing like this, I think it is fair to pin his early season turnover issues on him just not being comfortable with the players around him and that sort of thing. And there are also two other things that are not specific to this game but in the greater swing of things. 1. Jackson is currently one of the top 4th quarter scorers in the NBA, and he really seems to have a pretty good feel at the end of games as to when to just put his head down and get to the freaking rim. And that kind of guy is exactly the sort of guy the Pistons have been lacking for so long. 2. Jackson is currently sitting at 36% from 3. His history says that it will fall a bit, but then again he has never really gotten to play in a real offensive system. Regardless, that is a lot better than really anyone expected, and if he stays up around 35% all season then the Pistons will be a WAY better team and the Jackson/Drummond PnR will be that much harder to stop. All in all an excellent night for Reggie.
KCP: Only played 33 minutes (which is crazy when you think about it) which is good. Once again, I don't care what the situation is, in the regular season guys should not be playing 40+ minutes on any consistent basis. And in his time he played his usual good defense, although the lack of an elite perimeter scorer on the Bucks meant that his impact on defense was not all that big. But he is still really struggling on offense, although one thing that was seen tonight that has become a bit of a theme this year. KCP should be looking to run in transition every chance he gets. He is not an awesome finisher at the rim, but he is really fast and has the ball handling to do it. And as tonight showed, even though he only hit 1 FG, he was able to turn some of those fast breaks into FTs. I would just assume he not abandon ship as a shooter yet, but with his shot so off he has got to find other ways to get some points. And right now it seems that him running in transition as a ball handler is the best way for him to do that. Anyways it was a decent night for KCP, he did not do much of note either way. He does a lot of good things, but the shot is still super worrying. (Also, he had a couple very nice passes)
GREATER-MUTHA-FUKIN-MORRIS: He should hurt his back more often. When I was saying before the season that Morris would be a killer player on the team, the last two games where what I was envisioning. (obviously he won't shoot this well every night but the point does stand.) The Bucks were committing a laughable amount of their players to keeping Jackson out of the paint (generally 3 and a half players on the PnR) and the Pistons need guys who can hurt opponents when they do that. And Morris did just that, he attacked some mismatches when playing with the starters. And then to go on top of that, Morris was the anchor for the bench units, and he was excellent there as well. I really like what he has shown when put in the PnR as the ball handler. I don't know for sure how he would stand up to heavy usage in that role, but I would like to see it a bit more. He is a willing and good passer out of it (even if he tries to fit some passes in places they won't occasionally) and if he can prove to be capable of some more lead ball handling with the second unit it could be an absolute boon for the bench mobs. Morris also played some very solid defense on both Giannis and Middleton (even if he got beat a couple times but that's ok because those are both very good players) and hit his free throws. I really like this guy. The question now will become this: Is Morris coming out of his slump and will shoot more along the lines of the past few games the rest of the season? Or is he just on a hot streak right now? As much I like all the good things he does for the team beyond just his scoring, that will be the deciding factor for how good he is. Because if he is actually as good has he has been the past few games, then he legit could have his name thrown in with Jackson, Drummond, KCP, and Johnson as the core guys the team is building around. Otherwise he is just a pretty useful player. But only time will tell there.
Ersan Ilyasova: 3 point shot was a bit off (1/5) but still found ways to score some points with 13 points on 10 shots. Also grabbed 8 boards and drew a charge on Giannis, which was all accomplished in just 25 minutes of action. I really like him being a bit more aggresive, because once again, teams are going to get more and more ridiculous in what they do to try and stop Jackson/Drummond as the season goes on and that duo keeps getting it done. And when teams do that it is the job of the other 3 guys on the court to be able to take advantage of the breakdowns that happen. So while posting up a smaller guy, driving to the hoop around a slower guy, or going for a nifty little step back jumper are not exactly his comfort zone, if Ersan can convert those with some ability it will be huge for the Pistons offense. It was also nice to see him not cause really any noticeable issues on defense tonight. Really nice game for Ersan against his former team.
Andre Drummond: 17 points, 23 boards, 3 steals, 2 blocks, just another day at the office for the NBA's premier paint player. He was not super efficient with his shot, and missed quite a few post ups, but by the end of the game (especially in the 3rd quarter) he threw it in gear and started eating up all kinds of rebounds and generally enforcing his will. I will say that on his post ups, he needs to realize something. He is bigger, stronger, and more athletic than pretty much anyone else in basketball. As such, he can slow down a lot with his post ups. It is kind of hard because he is super quick and he does at times use his speed to great ends. But most of the time, there is no rush. He is such a freak that he can take all sort of time, and the opposing player (especially a ground bound type like Monroe) can know exactly what is coming but will still have no chance to stop it. Take your time big fella. For the second night in a row, Andre also threw a few really nice passes, even if only 1 ended in a assist. He also pretty thoroughly dominated Monroe as well, which was nice. I'm trying not to be too excited about these sorts of games from Andre because this needs to be the norm, but just remember when watching this guy, he is freaking good. So don't get too used to it, because guys like this don't come around much.
Stanley Johnson: Wow. Someone told him how to shoot suddenly. And I tried to find the person who pointed it out but I could not so if you are reading this then give yourself a shoutout, but he has been shooting very well from the corners all season, and as such he has started to find his way there with more consistency. He has been on fire from deep the past 4 games, and while that obviously won't keep up on this level, with rookies you just take what you can get. Especially with a guy who was supposed to not be a very good shooter, any good signs are good. He also made a couple nice defensive plays (also a couple not so good ones) and was decent handling the ball. Johnson is yet another guy on this team who seems to be settling into his role on the team and really learning to pick his spots and make good decisions. He is a rookie so it will not all come together this season, but it is improving, which is the biggest thing.
Tolly: In case you did not know, just yelling "TOLLLLLYYYYYYYYY" when he makes a 3 is super fun. Really nice game for him as well. 2/3 from deep, but also got a few boards, and played some very solid defense on Giannis for a stretch. I cannot stress enough how important his shooting is for this team. There were some other factors obviously, but when he hits a couple shots the bench suddenly looks not so horrible. And he can also slip in with the starters with ease as well. Tolly is just a good player to have on the team.
Steve Blake: This horse has been beaten dead by me at this point. I don't get why he plays, it is one of the only things (along with some of the crazy minutes KCP has played) that I have seriously questioned of SVG so far this year. Steve Blake is not good, he can't defend anyone, he can't score beyond wide open 3s, and he can't really even create. The one thing that you would think he could hold onto as being good at is as a lead ball handler for the offense, and yet he is so bad that tonight the Pistons gave more ball handling duties to Morris/Johnson/KCP than really any other night. And the bench looked much better with literally anyone else running the point than Blake. But whatever, the bench played one of its better games of the season so I won't complain too much, but it still makes no sense to me.
Aron Baynes: Coming off of surgery for his broken nose (which btw holy crap how do you just play like 3 games with that? Aren't broken noses supposed to be one of the more painful things a person can experience?) Baynes really struggled. He got roasted by Monroe on a the two possessions he had to guard him, and got roasted by Jon Henson when he went against him. Baynes also missed both his shots, neither of which were very difficult ones. Regardless, just not a great outing for him, but surgery can do that sort of thing to a guy I suppose.
General: Solid game all around, got a little more interesting at the end than I would have liked but the Bucks never made got it to be very scary. The bench played one of their better games of the season, although the Bucks also do not have a great bench. I really think that the Pistons as a team are starting to settle in a bit at this point. It may be a bit weird, but the main place I see this is in rebounding. Guys where having some trouble adjusting to playing next to the black hole known as Andre Drummond, but it seems like at this point guys sort of know where he is, and look for him. When Andre is there, they just let him get the board and start to run up court, which has resulted in a bit more pace, and some easy transition buckets. It also means that the non-Andre rebounders can save some more energy for rebounding when Andre is not in the best spot for it. Regardless, this is stretch of schedule is a nice respite from a very hard start, and the Pistons look to be doing well with it. Which is always nice. Although I will say, the Bucks where just starting to show some real signs of life when Bayless went down (and Bayless was a large part of the life shown) so this may have ended a little closer at least if Bayless had not gone down.
What do you think? Think I'm stupid? Let me know! We all get smarter!
P.S. Follow me on twitter. @joetruck229 I've no idea how exactly I'll use it, and if it is stupid I'll stop. But I'm going to give it a try.