Game Recap/Notes: Game #9. Pistons 105 - Bucks 96. (6-3)
What a great win for the Pistons. They had a great game plan, executed it almost flawlessly, and got great contributions from all over. That is how you bounce back from a bad loss and it also is an important win since the Pistons and Bucks are likely to be jostling for playoff position all season long.
He didn't score the ball well, but this was still a really good game for Reggie Jackson. He finished the night with just 9 points on 12 equivalents (FWIW a couple of those shots were heaves as the game wound down while the Pistons were really just running the clock) with 8 assists against 2 turnovers in 30 minutes, and one of those turnovers wasn't actually Reggie's fault as Eric Moreland mistakenly thought the pass was for him and deflected it out of bounds. The Bucks play a super aggressive defensive style were they trap ball handlers a lot, to beat it you need to make really crisp and smart passes, which Jackson did time and time again. He lead the way for the Pistons ball movement to simply be too much for the Bucks defense to handle and that is a credit to him. Him (and Tobias) also had a nice rebound from a poor defensive outing against the Lakers back up to where he has been most of the year where he is mostly playing hard and getting to the right spots.
I could've done with him playing a bit differently on the last few possessions of the game, but considering that the Pistons were really just trying to run the clock down as much as they could it is a bit understandable in the end I suppose. Still a really solid game for Reggie.
On a bigger picture thing, if you are still wishing the Pistons would trade Reggie for Eric Bledsoe, after tonight Reggie Jackson is averaging 3 assists per turnover so far this year, which is borderline elite territory. Eric Bledsoe has struggled to even crack 2 assists per turnover his entire career. Jackson looks like he truly has re-invented himself as a better and more well-rounded player this year.
After laying an absolute dud against the Lakers, Bradley bounced back in a big way on both ends of the floor. He finished the game with 23 points on 20 equivalents with 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals and a block in 35 minutes of play. Offensively he was active and really got going with both dribble handoffs with Drummond and off the ball, and defensively he was great all game holding Khris Middleton in check for most of the night and also providing several great help defense plays on Giannis. This guy is an absolute joy to watch play and was excellent tonight.
The numbers don't really bare it out, but this may be the best game Stanley Johnson has played this year. Offensively he didn't put up big numbers with 8 points on 11 equivalents with 2 rebounds and 3 assists in 38 minutes. But he joined Reggie Jackson in having his passing be instrumental in beating the aggressive Bucks defensive scheme. He was regularly making the sort of crisp, accurate, and quick passes that kill the Bucks.
Defensively he finished with 2 steals, but his (and the team in general) play against Giannis was excellent. Giannis was in the paint a lot, but not at the rim. Other than one play where he got beat on a backdoor cut, he made Giannis exclusively take jumpers when he was guarding him. Stanley was simply too stout for Giannis to move in the post so Giannis resorted to shooting over him, and if Giannis is taking jump shots then you are playing him right. Giannis finished with 29 points on 28 equivalents, which is crazy impressive when you consider a few things. First off, he got several buckets when Stanley wasn't on him (whether a short stretch where Stanley was off the floor or the occasional switch) and that Giannis had a true shooting percentage of 66.1%(!!) coming into this game. AND Stanley did it without fouling.
It was pretty easy to see that this was going to be a rough game for Tobias. The Bucks have lots of long, good defenders and require good passing to beat them, as a result Tobias was less involved in the offense than he has been so far this year but he had a decent game. He finished with 13 points on 13 equivalents with 1 rebound and 3 assists in 35 minutes. He held his own defensively and did a decent job when he was switched onto Giannis. Not a big game for Tobias but he did fine in a smaller role tonight which was fine.
HAVE ANDRE DRUMMOND START TAKING TECHNICALS BABY!!!! Seriously though, Andre Drummond just went 14 of 16 from the line. Who on earth would've predicted we would be here right now???? After tonight he is creeping close to 80% on the year after going 80% in the preseason. Tonight was a coming out party for his free throw shooting, the league will have fully taken notice and he should fully have confidence in himself going forwards. AND HOW GREAT DOES IT FEEL?? How many times have people questioned his work ethic and his desire? It must feel great for him, and this is probably the best I have ever felt for a player that doesn't involve a championship.
Other than the free throws though, Andre Drummond dominated the court, and he did so even more than the numbers show and the numbers are pretty freaking good. He finished the night with 24 points on 15 equivalents with 15 rebounds, 1 steal, and 2 blocks in just 28 minutes. His somewhat low minutes total was due to some early foul trouble and Eric Moreland playing really well. In the 3rd quarter Andre took over the game on both ends, scoring (I think) 14 points and grabbing 7 rebounds in that quarter alone, and capped it off by receiving a standing ovation as he got a steal and dribbled up the court to draw a foul. He owned the building tonight.
The one area in this game where you pump the brakes is that the high number of open looks he got right at the hoop (where scrambling Bucks defenders generally decided to foul the crap out of him) are more a product of the passing clinic the Pistons put on tonight, but he still did a great job of finding the open space and caught a lot of high velocity passes and almost never hesitated to get the ball up quickly.
The area where he was even better than the numbers was on the offensive glass. While he finished the night with just 3 offensive rebounds, he was still hugely impactful in the area. The Bucks ganged up on him to an almost comical extent, often delegating three guys to do nothing but box him out. This hampered the Bucks ability to get out into transition where they (and especially Giannis) thrive and forced them to be a half court team for most of the night. What a great game for Andre, and way to put in the work and keep at it big fella. Just don't get complacent at it so you keep it up all year.
Ish Smith played a really good game off the bench tonight, he finished the night with a super efficient 10 points on 6 shots with 4 assists in 18 minutes. He did a great job of doing his thing by splitting double teams, getting out in transition, and finding the open spots on the court to look for his own or others shots. Also here is a fun thing to keep an eye on this year, is the effect that the great spacing of the bench mob is having on Ish. He is currently blowing his career best true shooting percentage out of the water as he is over 53% on the year, for a guy who's career mark in that spot is just 45.4%. And the thing is, it feels kind of sustainable for him in this setting. Like there were times last year where his jumper would suddenly start falling for a night or so, but you knew he wasn't going to just keep canning jumpers. He is getting wide open looks whether it be at the rim or in the mid-range so he can avoid his kryptonite of having to hit contested shots. After a rough couple of games to the season, his assist to turnover ratio is slowly making its way back up towards his usual lofty heights, and he is scoring at a way above normal level for him.
The Pistons officially have a backup center problem/battle. Moreland got some extra run as Andre got into some early foul trouble and Moreland played really well to earn a few extra minutes and he made the most of it. He finished the night with 6 points on 3 shots with 9 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 block, and a game high +17 in 20 minutes of play. It should be noted that this figured to be a good matchup for Moreland as his biggest issue as a center is that he is a bit undersized, both in height and weight, and though the Bucks have some guys with good height, there isn't anyone who can really bully him. Regardless, Moreland played very well in his minutes, and made a good argument for some continued use.
Tolliver finished the night with 7 points on 5 equivalents, and got a few of those points after putting on the floor and getting the the hoop, which is something he did not have in his tool box when he left the Pistons. He played respectable defense on Giannis for a short time Stanley wasn't on the floor to guard him, and he has likely firmly locked down the backup 4 spot at this point. He is the rare player who has gotten a ton better late in his career, he is a much improved player on both ends of the floor right now than he was when he was originally acquired by the Pistons a couple years ago.
5 points on 4 shots in 13 minutes for Galloway. He didn't have a huge impact on the game but he was effective when he was on the floor, the fact that he is such a good and quick shooter continues to be a key component to the effectiveness of the bench mob. Dude is a rock solid player.
Only played 4 minutes in the first half, didn't really do anything. He needs to get some shots to fall.
Big time credit to SVG and the coaching staff for this one. When you have a couple of days off leading up to a game you want to see the team come in with a good game plan and that is exactly what they did. This was some of the best defense I've seen played on Giannis from start to finish, and they knew exactly how to attack the Bucks aggressive defensive scheme. Simply put, they saw the weaknesses of the Bucks and relentlessly attacked them. Reggie Jackson and Stanley Johnson made some really nice plays, but even Tobias was making quick and accurate passes with regularity and it carried the Pistons to the win. Really solid win, and if they can avoid another letdown against the Kings tomorrow night they are in great shape and off to a great start. Excellent win where every aspect of the team came through in some big ways for a quality win over a quality team.
Also I'd just like to tap myself on the shoulder a bit here because my preview was damn near spot on and I need to make the most of any W's I can get.
What do you think? Should Andre take technical fouls? How about Jackson's passing? How about Johnson's play?