Game Recap/Notes: Preseason Game #3. Pistons 107 - Pacers 97. (2-1)
Tough to take too much from this given the fact that both teams sat a bunch of guys, but its nice to get a win even if it doesn't count. And there was some stuff learned here other than just Reggie Jackson's return. As an FYI, I'm going to talk about Jackson more than anyone else in this recap.
It is preseason, take every observation with a grain of salt. Take it with an extra grain of salt for this game given all the guys that sat. Just assume that every observation comes with the asterisk of being preseason.
The thing we've been waiting for. I said before hand to not worry much about what kind of numbers he ended up with (good or bad) and look more so with the eye test as to how he plays. And the eye test comes away with being mostly positive I would say. He regularly got into the paint, and I believe that his first jump shot didn't come until his 5th or 6th shot and other than his 3s he only took one jumper. Other than that he was attacking the paint, throwing those goofy floaters, getting some layups, and throwing some nice passes to shooters. Offensively the only worry was that he failed to finish a few plays that he really should've. I wouldn't worry about it yet, but given that he was mostly finishing over the ground-bound Al Jefferson I'd feel a little better if he hit a couple more of his shots.
The first half was a bit of a struggle, he missed his first 3 shots and the Pistons tried to feed Boban a little bit too much and they were an abject disaster on defense which wasn't surprising given that the starting lineup was Jackson/Kennard/Johnson/Ellenson/Boban. In the second half though it really started to click, the Pistons tossed out a lot of crap and just had Jackson run pick and rolls almost every time down the court, and he settled in quickly and he lead the comeback to open the 3rd quarter. He even managed a few possessoins of good defensive play which included a steal. He finished the night with 14 points on 16 equivalents with 6 assists and no turnovers in 26 minutes of play. Once again, I'd feel a little bit better if he'd hit a couple more shots, but this was a very good look on offense for him, especially given that with all the guys who sat he was mostly playing with at least 3 other guys who he has very few reps with, and even Stanley Johnson is not a guy he has spent a ton of time on the floor with.
Defensively he looked largely like his old self too, which is to say that his effort came and went. He had some plays where he was very bad, and some others where he made nice plays. Probably a net negative on that end, but not a huge one overall. And yes he did look a bit gassed at times, but even when he has been doing full conditioning he looks gassed most of the time.
Lastly it should be noted that point guard is the one spot where the Pacers actually used their regular guys at, and Jackson spent most of the game going against Darren Collison and Corey Joseph who are the Pacers actual point guards.
So yeah, a good start. Not totally triumphant, but a good look regardless.
Kennard got the start with Bradley getting the night off, and he looked fine. He had 6 points and 2 rebounds in 26 minutes, and was largely not much of a factor. It is nice to see that teams seem to already have some respect for his jumper so he provides some spacing even when he isn't scoring so he has that going for him.
I do have to say that I have mostly been impressed with Kennard defensively this preseason. Off the top of my head I cannot think of any specific time where he really blew a play on defense, and there are a few legitimately good plays I can think of. He hasn't made a huge impact this preseason, and I want less long 2s and more 3s, but he certainly looks like he belongs on an NBA floor, on both ends.
Unless Jackson has a huge breakout game and/or Andre hits a bunch more free throws, Stanley Johnson is ver likely to be the best thing the Pistons have had happen in the preseason. Entering the season he is a big X factor for the Pistons, given his obvious potential and the fact that he hadn't really put it together yet. This preseason he has looked GREAT. I cannot overstate how good he has looked. And that isn't because he is shooting pretty well from deep (particularly the corners it seems) but his general offensive confidence looks great. He is handling the ball, making good passes, and hitting some shots in the paint. Even if he was missing more shots, he has looked a lot more sound on offense than last year. In this game he scored 11 points on 10 equivalents (1 of 4 from the free throw line hurt him) with 6 rebounds and a steal, and even though this game is one you can kind of throw out the +/- given the weird rotations of who was playing, he once again had a monster +18.
The real goodness is on defense though, where he has looked almost comically good in preseason. He has totally dominated whoever he has come into contact with on that end, and clearly has put in all the work. He looks like he may arrive in full force as the defensive menace he was projected to be in the draft, and that is going to yield some great stuff. I am making an official prediction here with Stanley, he is going to be the Pistons minutes leader by the end of the year.
He somehow finished the game with a game high +25 which I almost think may be a mistake. He continued to show off his wonderful offensive arsenal with 11 points in 12 shots with 5 rebounds and 2 assists in 28 minutes. He hit some jumpers, a tough floater, and showed off his great handles and good passing on a few different possessions.
HOWEVA, it is undeniable that he has been pretty terrible on defense in the preseason. Given his offensive skillset I really want him to see the floor this year, but if he can't clean up a bit on that end it will be hard to argue much if SVG nails him to the bench again. His defensive issues were made worse by the fact that he spent quite a bit of time with Boban, who has pretty similar defensive issues as Ellenson and made for a very slow footed front court, but even beyond his own physical limitations he just makes mental mistakes. His pathway to being serviceable on defense involves great discipline and heady play, and he is miles from that right now.
A little uneven but ended up mostly good in the start for Boban. He finished the night with 14 points on 9 equivalents with 5 rebounds in 21 minutes. He left the game early but didn't appear seriously hurt, no word yet (that I've seen) on what happened though.
The main downer for him was on the defensive end tonight where the Pacers jumped out to a big lead early in the game largely by exploiting him (and Ellenson) on their way to lots of open floaters. Admittedly, most nights teams will miss a few more of those (and they did eventually tonight even) but it is something the Pistons will largely have to give up with Boban on the floor. They will have him hang way back in pretty much every situation, which means that any time the perimeter defenders get beaten even a little bit there will be windows in the short range. Once again, I don't see this as being a huge issue, but there will be stretches this year where opponents are nailing those floaters and it is just a reality of playing Boban. Mostly a good night still for Boban though, as he got back several of those points on the other end, and mostly did a nice job of holding Al Jefferson in place.
Getting extra minutes with other guys sitting, Eric Moreland, who the Pistons pulled off the scrap heap this summer, put up this line: 4 points, 7 rebounds (4 offensive), 1 steal, 1 block, and 5 assists(!!!!) in 27 minutes. I liked him in Summer league and was pleased to see him get a contract, but it is becoming totally stupefying that he hasn't been able to stick on a roster until now. He is a little bit undersized as a center, but he is a good athlete with good instincts for blocks and steals, he plays hard, and HE CAN FREAKING PASS. I noted this as a pleasant development after the last game, but it is now a full blown great advantage that I had no idea would be there for him. In the second half, having him share the front court with Henry Ellenson provided a ton of passing from the bigs that the Pacer scrubs had a ton of trouble with and proved to be pretty deadly. This was not a fluky 5 assists, this dude has good vision and is a very willing passer. I love Eric Moreland, and if it was still Baynes instead of Boban in front of him I would be passionately yelling about playing him in the rotation. He has really impressed in 2 preseason games.
The Tolliverse continued to show why he is here, and why he should be so valuable to the Pistons. On a team that coughed up more long 2s than any other last year, Tolly is here to gun from deep and has little interest in anything else. (other than the occasional cut for some sexy big to big passing from Eric Moreland) He finished the night with 13 points on 6 equivalents, going 3 of 4 from deep, with 2 rebounds, an assists and a pair of steals. I'm not totally sure how he will hold up defensively given that he relies a lot on quickness and he is a year older, but he is going to be huge this year for the Pistons.
My biggest man crush in the NBA got his first look of the preseason and did not dissapoint. Bullock scored 13 points on 10 shots, including 3 of 5 from deep, with 4 rebounds, 4 assists, and a steal. Like Tolly, he is out there looking for 3 pointers and cuts to the hoop, with not much interest in anything else. He also continued his regular excellent passing and ball movement. Throw him in with Moreland and Ellenson as a trio of great non-ball-handler passing that gave the Pacers fits in the second half. He also really looked nice and locked in on defense which was nice. Reggie Bullock is good at basketball and I love to watch him, he better get some freaking playing time this year.
Same old, same old, mostly. His jumper got going a bit in this game on his way to 14 points on 12 equivalents with 9 assists and 2 turnovers. He also played mostly good defense. It was nice to see that he has some good vibes with his fellow bench players, but other than that not much to take from this game. Ish is Ish, which is good.
Ended up playing just 16 minutes for some reason while getting his first minutes at the 2 guard spot. He did score 7 points on 7 equivalents with some good defensive play which was good. He also is out there gunning for 3s, although at some point all the missed layups will break me I think.
Jackson looked good, Stanley continues to be great. Other than that there isn't much to take from this game, and those two things come with sizable grains of salt. Still, it was nice to see the Pistons make some shots and show some nice coherence.
What do you think? What did you see?