Game Recap/Notes: Game #6. Pistons 120 - Blazers 103. 5-1
Going to start this recap off by telling you all about my Dad. He is a longtime Detroit sports fan. (mainly the tigers) The type that the highest praise he can give a basketball player when watching is "He looks like Isaiah." So my Dad likes to talk about how you don't need to watch most of a regular season basketball game, because almost always at the end of the game the better team starts to try, and will end up winning. And the past several years, whenever me, as a young and foolish child, would be excited about the Pistons being ahead late in the game, he would just look over from whatever he was doing and say "yeah but they'll lose because they are not that good." And sure enough, they almost always would. Following the inevitable Pistons collapse he would recount days of watching the Bad Boys, and how there would be games where they would go into the 4th quarter down "like 95 - 82 or something, and they would turn it up on D, and the game would end like 110 - 100." This was also something that the mid 2000 Pistons would do with some regularity. (I can attest to that one along with my Dad.) Now I tell you this, because if you are someone who has not watched a lot of basketball for whatever reason. Games like tonight, are what happens when you have a team that is REALLY good. That is what separates pretty good teams from really good ones. Really good ones are capable of turning up on defense, and making it so the other team just cannot score. So if you hear some old dude talk about how the Bad Boys could turn up on D and destroy people, this game tonight is what they were talking about. This was not just Detroit basketball, this is true winning basketball. Now back to regularly scheduled programming.
REGGIE-MUTHA-FUKIN-JACKSON: Early on in the game he struggled a bit on offense, but in the 4th quarter he came to fully realize, that Damian Lillard cannot guard him, and that Portland's bigs would not leave Andre Drummond alone to contest anything at the hoop. So Jackson attacked, attacked, and attacked some more. He scored like 17 points in a row and 24 in the 4th (I think, idk remember for sure though so if someone has the exact numbers go ahead and give them.) And while Damian Lillard scored well, that was not really his fault (more on that later) but in the 4th quarter he was a huge part of the team turning up on D and destroying the Blazers. He was going against a legit top notch point guard, and he was so clearly better that it was crazy. Easily his best game of the season, and it is not just because he ended up scoring 40 points. His defense was a huge part of that too.
KC-MUTHA-FUKIN-P: KCP has made the step that the team needed him to make in his 3rd year. He was spectacular on D, McCullom did almost all of his damage against Steve Blake (ugh, more on that later) and KCP switched onto Lillard several times and was awesome on him too. Although both hit a couple shots on him, that will happen because both are really good scorers. But they were largely bottled up whenever KCP was on them. KCP may never be the sort of all around wrecking ball on defense that say Paul George is since KCP is not as big. But he has shown this year that he can bottle up any perimeter player he is matched up against. His offense is awkward, sloppy, and he still cannot really create for others at all. But he can put it on the floor and hit pull-up jumpers. He is the 4th option on offense, and he is awesome as that right now. For both KCP and Jackson, it will only go uphill as tomorrow they play the Warriors in Oracle. And here is what I will say. If the Splash Brothers torch them to some extent I will chalk it up to playing on a back to back/its the freaking Warriors they are torching everyone. BUT, if they keep Curry and Thompson in control and play them really well it is time to officially flip shit. Jackson/KCP is currently looking like they might be one of the best 2 way backcourts in basketball, and no that is not an overstatement or an overreaction. Time will obviously tell if they can keep it up all season, but right now they are both playing excellent basketball.
GREATER-MUTHA-FUKIN-MORRIS: The hatred that Suns fans have for him became totally obvious after the last game, but I don't know why for sure. Here is what I do know, he is in the perfect town for him now. Even on a night like tonight where he shot like crap, he is tough as hell, and plays his ass off every night. He got T'd up which regardless of circumstances I am generally not in favor of, but if there is one fan base that can have some love for a guy who works his tail off and gets T'd up in response to obviously wrong calls, it is Detroit. On his shooting though, I would not get too worried about it. He generally took the right shots. I mean all of his 3s (except one I think) were the type that if you are not going to take them then you should not be shooting 3s. He just missed them. If he has too many nights like this it will become an issue, but this was easily his worst night of the year shooting. So chalk it up to just bad luck and count o it not happening again there. And once again, he freaking worked his ass off in every other phase which is great to see that a guy's motor is not dependent on him scoring. If anything his poor shooting lit a fire under his butt. One kind of side point, Greater Morris is awesome on the fast break. Obviously most guys are good on the fast break, but I cannot recall a single time this season where he got out on the break and he did not make the right play. A nice complementary part of his game, which is another thing that helps to balance out his game so he is still useful when he is missing shots. Also on the getting T'd up. I think he has himself under pretty good control actually. So like, Ed Davis had a bad call (and it was a bad call FWIW) and he lost his shit and got a double tech and got ejected. Like that is the type of stuff that you cannot have happen under any circumstance. And while Morris got a tech while arguing about another blown call (that was clearly blown) he kept his cool. And then in the second half he kept his cool following being given a flagrant. And also kept himself from getting to heated following an inadvertent whistle that took away a really nice 3 pointer. Like there is a difference between being willing to give the refs a piece of your mind and losing your shit. It seems to me that Morris is more so unafraid of getting T'd up. But has not really lost his shit at all. But then again there is a lot of season left for that. But still, tonight, it was something to look at that was a big positive.
ERSAN-MUTHA-FUKIN-ILYASOVA: I mean, this is getting repetitive with him, but I don't know any other way to put it. He did not play a ton, but while he played he did all the things he is here to do. He was all over the place, he hit some shots, moved the ball etc. I am a little curious as to why SVG seems to prefer Tolly in crunch time to him. Right now my best guess would be that Tolly seems to be a little quicker on D. And I will say that several of the defensive breakdowns early in the game where the result of him blowing/just being to slow on a rotation. Also going into his smaller minutes is that Tolly is probably the team's best backup and Morris also plays some PF so his position has the most depth on the team. But he still had a pretty good game. You know what he is going to give you, and he has done it every single night. I do wonder if he does perhaps have some sort of lingering injury of some sort however, but if he does it doesn't appear to be making him less effective.
ANDRE-HOLY-CRAP-DID-YOU-SEE-THAT-DRUMMOND: Wow. That is literally the only way to put this. Reggie Jackson had 40 points, but Drummond was easily the best player on the court once again. He is a two way monster who most teams simply do not have anyone who can physically compete with him. And here are the two big things with him I've been seeing. #1. He has not been in much foul trouble this year. He has learned to do his thing without fouling constantly, which is HUGE. #2. The whole thing where he said he was working his butt off this offseason to be in better shape and play better late into game? Yeah it looks like he was not kidding. He has been great all the way to the final whistle in every game. So even though it is frustrating that he cannot shoot free throws, don't let that fool you into thinking he has not been working like crazy to get better. Because he so clearly has. Oh yeah speaking of him improving on things, he post game was awesome tonight. He only had a few post ups but (by my unofficial count) he was 4/5 on post ups including an absolutely monster dunk. He is also a freaking terror on defense. And he obliterated the hopes and dreams of Mason Plumlee on one drive holy crap. Like he owns the paint on both ends of the floor. Like there are 3 ways you can dominate the paint, you can be huge (shaq), you can be athletic (Blake Griffin), or you can be skilled. (Kyrie Irving) And Andre Drummond is all freaking 3 of these. Like, I know skill is not the first thing you think of with Andre, but he has touch on his shot, and his tip ins. He is incredible at timing his jumps for both rebounds and blocks. It is crazy. Like LeBron is the only other guy who jumps out to me as a guy who is just that unfair. (I am not saying Andre is a good as Bron... yet.) This was a monster game, although this is becomming the expectation at this point. Andre Drummond has been the best big man in the NBA, and it is not even close. We will see if he can keep it up, but so far he has been. Also as a side note, I love the over the hoop shots of him going for tip ins. He is the only Piston and he is always surrounded by like the entire other team and he just dad dicks them. (and yes those shots are actually the thing I had in mind when I say "Andre vs. Everyone" is a matchup to watch. Anthony Tolliver: He got had a couple hard patches early in the game (a couple bad fouls) but he was killer to close out the game. He hit his shots, and he is super active on D. He is not a great defender, but he works hard and never gives up on a play, which goes a long way. Plus, he has enough speed that he can often stick with some smaller guys for a short time. He is the teams best bench player right now, and I am totally ok with that. And this has been said before, but the Pistons picked this guy up off the freaking waiver wire part way through last year. Also something that is easy to forget, is that he is 30. Like I had somehow not realized that. Because everyone calls him this old vet and he kind of has an old man game. And while he is a vet, and 30 is not young. He actually could still be a good player for a few more years. Honestly if someone asks what SVG has done to make this team better, just show them Tolly. A guy who is a pro, plays his ass off, and makes the right plays, and got him off the waiver wire. SVG has built a team here full of guys who other people did not want. Like honestly, almost all of the roster is like this. It is remarkable. If they end up keeping up even close to this level of play all year.
Stanley Johnson: meh. He had a tough game, and while this is going to get a little old to hear, but it is true. He is a rookie, this will happen. He generally played pretty solid defense while on the floor, but he was not very good on offense. I think he needs to try and make decisions quicker and not hesitate so much. Because he is a rookie, it does not matter how long he stops to think about it, he will make the wrong play a lot. At least make that play at full speed so when it is the right play it actually is the right play. Like I think back to when I played Rugby the first time, I had literally no idea what I was doing. But my coach just said "Go as hard and fast as you can, you will get the hang of it and you will do alright." Like I think that is what he needs to do. Don't stop to think. Just go. But I do like that SVG got him some chances to have the reigns for a few possessions, although I personally don't like forcing a post up to him. Unless it is a obvious miss match. So yeah, not a very good game, but he also did not do a whole lot that was especially bad, so he was fine. Just remember with every game he struggles a bit, he is growing. And we need him to grow.
Steve Blake: I will not claim to know more about basketball than SVG. But it makes no sense to me why Blake is playing. He cannot guard anyone. While he did actually hit a shot and if he can start to pick up his shooting a bit it will make him a ton better. He is so freaking bad on D. I think McCullom scored almost all his points with him out there. And while Blake does a solid job of running the offense with some crafty moves to create shots. He is not exactly awesome. And once again there is the whole thing where Dinwiddie is young and trying to develop, while Blake is old as dirt. But whatever. It was nice to see him hit a shot, but I cannot understand why he is still playing over Dinwiddie. But whatever I suppose. SVG is clearly going to stick with Blake as the backup.
Aaron Baynes: Best game as a Piston. He did not play a ton, but he made a couple of really nice plays. He was to big for Ed Davis and got a nice deep post up for an easy bucket, and made another nice pass out of the post for a 3. And hit a couple free throws. I still don't know for sure how much I like him, but he is certainly showing to be a solid backup center to spot Andre.
General: I covered it mostly at the start, but holy crap that defense at the end. That was no joke. HOWEVA, before that the Blazers were absolutely torching them. A big part of that was just that the Blazers got hot. Like just simply put, NBA teams do not shoot in the 60%s very often. HOWEVA, they never shoot that well without getting good looks. The Pistons hedged really hard against Lillard on picks, double teaming him, and then were far to slow on the rotations out of the double to take the ball out of Lillard's hands. That is really what it comes down too. Late in the game SVG basically scrapped that and told his guards to just freaking stick with their guys, and both Jackson and KCP did it with incredible skill. (that is why I say they both played awesome D despite their counter-parts putting up solid numbers. Because early on it was not actually often their fault, it was poor team defense. At the end when it was just put on them, they were awesome.) However this is a little worrying. Because against Steph Curry double teaming out of a screen is not a strategy, it is a requirement. And the Warriors are about 100 times better at whipping the ball around to the open guy following that double team. So yeah. The D was not good, but even with that the Blazers had a combination of just good shooting and some lucky bounces. Overall that does not concern me too much. And the Pistons turned up at the end and smothered them. Also, Andre Drummond is unbelievable. Like, it was funny in the post game, Blaha and K were talking about his numbers and Kelser just says "And guess what, he is a piston." and kind of laughed. And we should all be with him. We are watching the ascension of a rare talent in Andre Drummond. Like this is the type of dude the Sixers are tanking for. He is that good. So don't take him for granted. Because guys this good don't come around very often, and it is even rarer that they play for your team.
Odd notes: It was nice to have Blaha back, even if I am not a big fan of his (I think he is a bit too much of a homer/a little campy) but you notice how good the regular play by play guys are when you get someone who has not been doing it as long as Blaha has. Like it was just nice to get that back.
I got one of those knit Pistons hats, it is freaking heavenly how warm and comfy it is.
The Disturbed cover of "Sound of Silence" is awesome and I have been listening to it the entire time I have written this recap.
Since it is a back to back I will get the pre-cap of the Warriors up sometime tomorrow early afternoon.
What do you think? Think I'm stupid? Let me know! We all get smarter!