Game Recap/Notes: Game #1. Pistons 102 - Hornets 90. (1-0)
Great win to open up the season in a new arena. Other than just a couple small hiccups it was almost all positive tonight and a great sign for the team going forwards. Obviously it is just 1 game but still not much to complain about.
Reggie Jackson was, remarkably decent. It will take time to fully regain trust, and at some point the Pistons will need him to start putting in more buckets, but tonight combined with his preseason play has me super optimistic for several reasons. First off, he just looks right in a way that he never really did last year. He is getting into the lane and paint on offense, he is turning the corner on guys, and finding teammates after drawing extra defenders. The reality is that regardless of how any of the numbers play out, he just looks right by the eye test.
HOWEVA, it is more than that. His final line of 13 points on 11 equivalents with 5 rebounds, 8 assists without a turnover and a (tied for) team high +10 to top it off is a tidy stat-line which tells a accurate, and very positive picture, of Jackson's play. He played within himself, didn't force things that were not there, took care of the ball, and found teammates with reliability. Hopefully this is a sign that he is going to be willing to not push too hard until he has shaken off the rust of an offseason where he spent it all getting healthy without much basketball playing. He even looked pretty good on defense tonight! With Bradley in foul trouble Jackson was tasked with guarding Kemba Walker more than they probably planned and he held up just fine. Other than one play where he bit on a hesitation badly, there were not any plays where he blatantly stood out as a problem on defense.
If I may be quite daring, Reggie Jackson looked like the kind of player that /u/Nerouin described to me as what he wanted to see out of him when we recorded a podcast together this past offseason. In control, passing more, not playing hero ball, and actually trying on defense. Time will tell if it holds up, but it is a good start.
One side thing to look for going forwards, as a monitor of his health, is turning some of the floaters tonight into layups. Against Dwight Howard on the Hornets, floaters are what you go with if you can hit them given Howard's ability as a rim protector and the Hornets ultra-conservative defensive scheme, with the Wizards next it may be more of the same but look for him to create and convert more layups as the season goes on. Once again him taking almost all floaters was totally acceptable tonight, just want to see him get to the rim a bit.
I like Avery Bradley. He only played 23 minutes due to some (questionable) foul trouble as a result of guarding Kemba Walker, but when he was on the floor he was great. Despite the low minutes he finished with 15 points on 10 shots with 2 rebounds, an assist, and some really nice defensive plays even if they didn't show up in the box score. He only took one three pointer, and missed it, but him and Andre clearly have some real chemistry for dribble hand-offs and backdoor cuts. Andre is probably damn near in shock to realize that it is in fact possible for a shooting guard to take one of his (excellent) dribble handoffs and actually go to the rim with it instead of just pulling up for long twos. Speaking of which, there were like two or three times I wish they ran their plays a few feet further out so they were worth an extra point but what do I know?
Other than the foul trouble he was excellent, and it is not going to be long before the fan base falls totally in love with this guy if they haven't already. I love the chemistry he and Andre have on offense, and I LOVE the fact that on like 3 possessions tonight him and Stanley just totally enveloped the Hornets. One last thing I like about him, is that he constantly looks angry, like the “This dude did not just say that” angry.
Welp, there are going to be nights like this for Stanley. All year it is going to be a battle for him to hit enough shots to not hamper the offense too much, and tonight he didn't do that as he went 0 for 13 from the field, with his only two points coming at the line. He had at least three shots go in and out, including a corner three which was when it became clear that it just wasn't his night. HOWEVA, he mostly made up for it on the defensive end, where he was an absolute wrecking ball on his way to 4 steals and 4 rebounds, and was damn near the only guy on the team who dodged foul trouble. He also had a super clutch offensive rebound tap out in the closing minutes of the game that essentially sealed the game.
Overall I mostly liked the shots he took even though he missed them, and even though he only had 1 assist he made some really nice passes and remains one of the Pistons better creativity guys. The main critique I have of his offensive night is that when with the starters, he shouldn't really be getting the ball unless it is a corner three or a cut to the basket. Let him do some ball handling with bench mobs, with the starters though I'd prefer to let Jackson and Harris run the show with the occasional dash of Avery Bradley.
Lastly, not to toot my own horn, but he played a whooping 40 minutes tonight, which is something I would get used to. Stanley is exactly the kind of high energy, defense first, kind of player that SVG adores AND he is at the Pistons thinest position (by a fair margin). After one game, I feel pretty good about my prediction for Stanley to lead the Pistons in minutes played this year.
Tobias had the perfect combination tonight. With Batum and MKG missing from the Hornets tonight, it was not hard to guess that Tobias would have a good chance to get some buckets against a Hornets team that suddenly was very weak on the wings, but he was able to combine that with a great 4 of 7 mark from deep (including nailing one in the last minute of the game that killed any hopes the Hornets had at a comeback) to go for 27 points on just 18 shots.
But Tobias didn't just get it done scoring the ball, he picked up some of the rebounding slack with Andre in foul trouble to get a double-double with 10 rebounds, and also notched 3 assists. It is hard to say much about his defense because the guys he was guarding were never really going to be much of a factor regardless, but he did fine. The only downside to this game for Tobias is that he continued his tradition as a guy who can dissapear for extended periods, as he scored almost all his points at the start of the game. That aside though, I like that he got 18 shots up and hope that is a regular thing for him.
If he had gone to the line a couple more times he would have the honors along with Tobias tonight, but he only had one trip to go 2 for 2 from the line so I will withhold the cuss jar for the night. Andre got into some (questionable) foul trouble in the first half, but after that he did end up having a pretty decent game. His stat-line of 8 points on 10 equivalents, 13 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal, 2 blocks, and a +8 on the night is really solid when considering that he only played 22 minutes. I mentioned it with Bradley already, but those two are going to be best friends and Andre is going to rack up tons of assists with that guy. Andre's ability as a dribble handoff guy has always been under-appreciated/used and it is great to see a guy who is willing and able to take full advantage. Andre even hit the Hornets with the counter on one possession where he held onto the ball and got a layup, which will be important for him to prove he can do so that teams don't start to cheat against Bradley's drives. It wasn't exactly the rip-roaring start for him that I kind of hoped for, but it was still very good.
This was a little... concerning? I like Moreland a lot,but unless they are still overly concerned about fatigue with Boban (something they brought up a bunch in preseason after his summer with the national team) then I don't get why Boban didn't play here. Dwight is not the even remotely the kind of mobile, jump shooting big that you worry about Boban guarding. If SVG isn't willing to let Boban get some run tonight I worry about Boban's outlook this year.
As for Moreland though, he continued to make good on a strong summer league and preseason. He scored no points (or even get up a shot) in 12 minutes of play, and had just 1 rebound and 3 steals. That line is a pretty good representation of what his night was. He had serious trouble with Dwight's size on both ends of the floor, even got in a little scrap with him, but he played really active defense and shows great energy and quicks on that end. He won't get so many steals every night, and his inability to handle Howard in the paint was a real problem, but I think Moreland makes your defense better.
4 points, 3 rebounds, and 1 block in 19 minutes of play with almost all of it coming at center. He ran a couple of really nice fast breaks, and generally I think he is better as a center than a power forward. In the end though, he was just fine, didn't have much impact positive or negative.
I am truthfully shocked, and will remain shocked for however long this continues. Henry Ellenson, a 2nd year pro who is 20, and is TERRIBLE on defense, played 16 minutes for a Stan Van Gundy coached team. And he wasn't pressed into those minutes by injuries. It is going to be a balancing act for Ellenson all year if he really is going to be in the rotation, because I have no faith in him approaching any sort of competency defensively after preseason and tonight, but dude has an awesome offensive skill-set. Tonight he scored 13 points on 10 shots with 4 rebounds and an assist in 16 minutes, and there were was a 2 possession bit that showed why he is playing. On one possession he received a pass beyond the line, got the defender to bite on a pump fake and proceeded to drive to the hoop and finish a tough layup through contact for an and-1. Next possession he got the ball in the open court following a Hornet's turnover and took it all the way in for the layup. There just are not many dudes his size with his kind of offensive skill, plain and simple. I also LOVED pairing him with Leuer and Smith on the bench mob. Having bigs as skilled and shooting capable as Ellenson and Leuer (theoretically) are negates some of the cancer that Ish Smith's lack of shooting brings to your half-court offense, and all three of them love to run in transition at every chance. Time will tell if Ellenson can do enough offensively to negate his defense, and there will certainly be nights where he is a disaster, but I will take games like this, and am thrilled that he got playing time.
Smith had a decent but not great game in the opener.4 points on 9 shots with 1 reobound and 6 assists against 3 turnovers. He did fit very well running on the break with the bench mob, and his manic defense gave some trouble to the inexperienced bench backcourt of Monk and Stone. In the end he was fine though, my biggest complaint is that he got a little trigger happy in the 3rd quarter and I would've much preferred if like two or three of his shots had gone to Tobias in that stretch instead. In the end though there isn't really much to complain about. He was fine, and it was nice to see him in his actual role of backup point guard.
Combine this with Stanley Johnson's night for Exhibit A of why I don't really care how guys shoot in preseason. Galloway got some extra minutes with Bradley in foul trouble, and made the most of it with 16 points on 11 shots (including 3-6 from deep) with 4 rebounds and 3 steals. I hope he can hit enough shots to be an excellent bench player, but he will certainly be a very nice one for the Pistons this year. Dude plays defense, his length causes real problems, and he can shoot. There will be nights where he takes and misses too many threes, but he will mostly be a rock solid backup.
The only real complaints are that Andre and Bradley got some foul trouble. Other than that, great win where I saw most of what I wanted to see. It is an extra good win since it comes over a team in the Hornets who figure to be around the same area of the playoff hunt this year. The only caveat of this game is that I wouldn't put a ton of stock into the defensive performance, especially from the bench mob. Batum's playmaking was huge for this team, and as good as Kemba is, he is the ONLY source of offensive creation on the team until Batum returns. And there are only a handful of guys in the NBA who are good enough to carry an offense totally on their own, scoring points is going to be a huge problem for this team until Batum returns.
What do you think? How would you rate Jackson's play? How about Andre's assists?