Game Recap/Notes: Game #18. Pistons 99 - Thunder 98. (12-6)
It was not pretty, but you don't care how a win comes when it is against a good team on the road, when you toss in the fact that they were rebounding from a absolute butt whooping in their previous game it makes it even better. Very solid win for the Pistons.
Quiet but not terrible game for Jackson, who finished with 12 points on 11 equivalents with 5 assists in just 26 minutes of play. He hit a few clutch free throws down the stretch, and missed a couple attempts at clutch buckets which fortunately didn't matter because the Pistons held on to win regardless. To his credit, Jackson did not try and do too much in this game, which is often the case for him against teams he has an extra chip on his shoulder for, and he mostly just sort of played the game as it came. Obviously it would've been nice if he had gotten more involved in the offense but this sort of thing can happen with the offense being so much more motion heavy.
This was honestly a stinker for Bradley, who scored just 11 points on 14 equivalents with 3 assists and 5 turnover, many of which were of the very bad type. On the defensive end he mostly did his thing, although he had some trouble with the general size of the Thunder which is to be expected, he still was very good of course.
This game was never going to be a good matchup for Bradley, as the Thunder are another team with so much size that it is tough for him to have a guy to just dominate for the entire game, and even taking away the size thing Russell Westbrook is so freaking good that you are not going to dominate him the entire game anyways, and on the other end the Thunder the sort of long, reaching team that will turn him over a lot. I will be honest about something though, at this point I'm ok with giving Bradley a lot less ball handling duties, dude turns it over too much.
Perhaps a little bit strange sounding, but I think this may have been the best game of the year for Stanley Johnson. 11 points on 8 equivalents with 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal and 1 block in 30 minutes of work is not the sort of line that would inspire that sort of praise generally, but his defensive presence was incredible this game. With a team featuring so many big physical scorers, Johnson's defensive abilities were on full display as he spent time guarding each one of the Thunder big three at various points and did a really good job on all of them and made it abundantly clear that he is a top flight defensive player, the fact that he paired that sort of defensive outing with a solid offensive night is just a cherry on top.
FWIW, one of my favorite plays of the season has to be that play where Carmelo Anthony and Stanley got real physical, and Melo got very dramatic in his attempt to bully Stanley and it just plain did not work. Stanley Johnson is a rock, and his main cover was Melo who had 20 points on 24 shots on the night.
Like Bradley, this was always going to be a rough game for Harris. He would have tough defensive assignments a lot (though he actually faired pretty well on that end all things considered) and the Thunder have the sort of long, fast, crashing defense that often requires good passes to beat which is of course not a strong suite for Harris. Well it showed up in the numbers as Harris finished with just 13 points on 15 shots, including just 1 of 6 from deep in what hopefully is not a sign of a really nasty regression for him, with 7 rebounds, 3 assists and a steal in 34 minutes. With that said, I thought he did a good job of staying a bit aggressive in some moments to find his shot when it was available, the thing was that it just wasn't available very often. He did make one clutch pass to a cutting Avery Bradley that put a real shock in me because it was so impressive.
He only went 1-3 from the line so he didn't get the automatic honors, but 17 points on 15 equivalents with 14 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 blocks in 38 minutes of work is very good, but this is really the eye test. After a rough first half, Drummond came out and positively dominated the floor in the second half. In a game where Russell Westbrook, Paul George, and Carmelo Anthony were all playing, Andre Drummond may well have been the best player on the floor and that is definitely worth the honors in my book.
Drummond was super active offensively, finding open spots to get shots up as I believe only one of his buckets was a put back, and some of them were really tough shots in the lane against the swarming, swiping Thunder defense. It should be noted that he had 6 turnovers, although a couple were not all that bad, and when you play a team with this sort of length then some growing pains with Drummond's passing are going to be had so it doesn't bother me too much. Drummond also really locked in defensively in the second half and just played a wonderful game in the end.
One side thing I want to mention is about his first half. Early in the game Steven Adams was really kind of giving it to Drummond, especially on the glass. Adams finished with 6 offensive boards and I believe all of them were in the first half. A lot of people were totally dumbfounded as to how this could happen, so I figured I'd mention it. First off is that, regardless of reasons, that cannot happen to Drummond under any circumstances. The Pistons win games largely because they take care of the ball and win the rebounding battle, and Drummond is almost solely responsible for the second one and the roster is built with that in mind. That said, Adams is a tough matchup for Drummond because Adams is so freaking strong while being super long. The only area that Drummond is not physically elite (by NBA center standards) is in his height and length, but pretty much every guy who is longer than him is way weaker and he can just out-jump regardless so it doesn't matter, but then you get a guy like Adams, who is just as strong (if not stronger) than Drummond, super fundamentally sound, and taller/longer then he suddenly can't play like he usually does. Robin Lopez does the exact same thing for the exact same reasons. In the second half Drummond had to start to honest to god box out on Adams, which is not something he does very often because there simply isn't the need. To Drummond's credit, he made the adjustments and had a great second half though.
Ho baby this was a great Ish Smith game. The Thunder's combination of Raymond Felton being fat and Russell Westbrook being lazy defensively meant that the Thunder simply didn't have an answer for the speed of Ish Smith, who sped his way to 15 points on 11 shots and 4 assists in 22 minutes of play. He also hit a half court shot at the end of the first half, and his total disregard for his shooting percentages in those situations is always something I have appreciated so it was great to see one go down in a game that was so close. Simply put, this was probably the best game of the year for Ish and it isn't like he has struggled all year.
Yeah his shot is back. 8 points on 7 shots, some good defense of Carmelo Anthony, another day at the office for Tolly. Dude remains a rock solid and important contributor.
16 minutes, 9 points on 4 shots which were all from deep (3-4) and a few nice defensive possessions to boot. Idk if he should maybe be getting a larger role or not, but so far he has been a really nice addition to this Pistons team. Dude is out there trying to jack up as many threes as possible, which when combined with Tolly off the bench as well is a lot of gunning to put on the floor and it paid off big time in this game.
Officially in the rotation, Kennard only scored 3 points on 5 shots in 15 minutes, but the one shot he hit was a big time three in the 4th quarter. He struggled to create looks for himself or others against the Thunder length but he continues to not look out of place on an NBA court.
10 minutes, didn't do a lot. He blocked 2 shots and had 1 rebound. This was a rough game for him. He did nearly start another altercation which is always fun.
Excellent win for the Pistons to bounce back, and also because this is a rough bit of schedule, where (including this one) they have 5 out of 6 games that could very easily be losses, with the lone reprieve being a home game against the Suns, they were going to need an ugly win or two to get through this stretch and they got one.
One strategic thing, I think that the Pistons are officially trying too hard to trap ball handlers away from the hoop. I love getting Drummond on the perimeter defensively and whatnot, but there just isn't the need to go that far out against Westbrook and Felton. They were playing them as though they were Steph Curry, which opened up a lot of holes in the defense behind the play which Westbrook took advantage of on several occasions.
Regardless, the Bench and Drummond really won this game, and the Pistons hopefully have righted the ship. This is still going to be a tough stretch that will require good play to get through in one piece.