Game Recap/Notes: Game #11. Pistons 114 - Pacers 97. (8-3)
The game was closer than the final score would indicate and it wasn't particularly pretty, especially considering the advantage the Pistons had in rest. HOWEVA, it was still a fine win in the end. The Pistons got good contributions from a lot of different places and even though the game was never a blowout it was not all that close for any extended period of time.
Jackson was having a typical game for him this season through most of it, he mostly was just a cog in the offense as a passer and facilitator while playing hard and generally solid on defense, broken only by a stretch where him and Drummond ate the Pacers alive in the pick and roll when Al Jefferson was forced into extra duty by Myles Turner foul trouble. Then at the end of the game the Pistons were looking to ice it and Reggie reached back a couple of years and got buckets. He canned a couple of pull-up threes, got an and-1, and had a beautiful assist to Drummond to be the driving force behind the Pistons suddenly opening a big lead late in the game. He finished the night with 18 points on 12 equivalents with 6 assists (against 3 turnovers) and 3 rebounds, and played one of his better defensive games of the year I thought. He really ended up with a rock solid game.
One big difference in his defense from even before he was hurt last year, is that he has learned to navigate screens much better. He still has a tendency to give up on plays when he catches a pick, but he doesn't catch them that often anymore, and before in his career that had been a huge problem with him.
Offensively it was a decent but not great night for Bradley as he finished with 14 points on 13 equivalents with 4 turnovers, but he got it done on the other end as he held Victor Oladipo in check and then some. Oladipo finished the night with 21 points on 23 equivalents, which was buoyed by a 4 point play in garbage time, and he only had 2 assists with 6 turnovers on the night. So far in the young season when Oladipo is rolling it gives the Pacers offensive attack some real teeth, but when he is held in check there really isn't much they can do in terms of perimeter scoring, so Bradley's contributions on that end were instrumental in the Pistons victory.
My favorite Piston got the start tonight with Stanley Johnson hurt, and he played 32 really good minutes. He quickly showed all the little things that he does so well that help you win basketball games with a few really good cuts to the hoop and a couple nice passes on his way to 7 points and 3 assists on the night, and he finally got a scratch from deep. He also played really good defense, and has made great progress in that area since his arrival in Detroit. If he can make good on his still fairly small sample size as a sharpshooter from deep then he will be able to carve himself into a killer role player who can fill in for big minutes like tonight whether it be due to injury or foul trouble, but it will be important that he busts out of his early shooting woes.
Rock solid night for Tobias who finished the night with 23 points on 19 shots with 8 rebounds and 1 assist in 33 minutes. He continues to burn with the passion of 1,000 suns from deep as he hit 5 of 9 three pointers, including a clutch pull-up three late in the game. He will obviously cool to a lower level than he has been at this year, but there is a really good chance he is going to be a much improved deep shooter by the time the season is over, and Stan Van Gundy said that it was a point of emphasis in training camp to get Tobias to shoot more when guys play off of him. He struggled a bit defensively, most notably with some terrible closeouts to shooters, but he still played a very good game when all was said and done.
I wanted to give him the honors tonight, probably should've anyways. He finished with 14 points on 12 equivalents with 21 rebounds (first 20 rebound game of the season for him), 4 assists, 1 block, and a monstrous +27 in 33 minutes of work. HOWEVA, I have held back the honors because it finally happened with his free throws as he went 0-7 from the line. This was going to happen at some point, and it is imperative that he return to form in the next game. Andre (along with every other guy who has struggled with free throws) has often said that it is a mental thing as much as anything, and the real test to whether or not his new-found abilities at the line will stick is if he could keep that mental block from returning when he starts to miss. If he shoots them like crap next game then it is officially time to worry, if he gets back into form then all is well.
In the end though, this was still a pretty incredible game from Andre. He controlled the paint on both ends of the floor, dominated the glass, and did work. If he had shot his free throws at his usual clip for the year he would've had a chance at his first 20/20 game of the year, and he also had an incredible dunk to finish off the game. Very good game for Andre, but this is likely a crossroads of sorts for him with his free throw shooting. Shake it off big fella.
Ish continues his stellar play from the bench despite finishing the night with a -2. He scored 10 points on 9 shots (and a couple were heaves as the shot clock wound down) with 5 assists against 2 turnovers and a incredible block in 21 minutes of play. He ran with great pace and had a great balance of finding shots for himself and his teammates, very good game for Ish.
Getting some extra burn with Stanley Johnson out, Galloway made the most of it. 12 points on just 7 equivalents in just 22 minutes of work. Galloway was hunting for his shot from the moment he stepped onto the floor and he remains red-hot to start the season while also putting forth some excellent defensive play. I do hope that the look with him and Bradley on the floor together gets some more run as the season progresses because I like the feel of that pairing.
Tolly played 14 minutes and did well in those minutes. He only scored 3 points on 3 shots, but he screened and played defense. Not a whole lot to report but he played well and remains rock solid off the bench.
Got some burn in the first half tonight, he got one good bucket but didn't do much else. 2 points on 3 shots and a foul were his only scratches in the box score. I will say that at the very least he continues to look like he belongs on the defensive end of the court and doesn't look nearly as bad on that end as I figured he would.
When Eric Moreland initially came in for Andre in the first quarter I was ready to give up. SVG has largely kept Boban out of the lineup with the excuse of wanting to avoid having him guard quicker and/or more perimeter oriented big men, and if SVG thinks that a 32 year old Al Jefferson is too fast for Boban then there is no hope. But alas, after Big Al held office hours on the low block against Moreland, Boban entered the game and looked excellent. He only played 8 minutes in the end, but he put up 9 points on 5 equivalents with 4 rebounds, an assist, and a block. I really hope this game puts at least some faith back into SVG to let Boban get some more run.
This game showed the biggest problem Moreland has. He isn't all that big for a center in height or girth, and he is also not overly disciplined on defense. Given those weaknesses it was not hard to predict him getting beaten repeatedly by Al Jefferson, but it is a very serious limitation to his game. I still like Moreland as a player, but I think I like him better as the 3rd center.
Once again, it will be huge for Andre to get back in shape with his free throws next game or risk falling all the way back into the abyss.
Other than that, it was a bit disappointing to not win by more given that the Pacers were on a back the back while the Pistons were rested, but the Pistons did control the game pretty much from start to finish. The Pistons have one more game before things start to get a little bit tougher again, and if they win that then they are officially off to a great start to the season.
The one thing that I hope they continue to improve upon is balancing the motion offense with the pick and roll. Because I like the fact that the Pistons have diversified their offense in a big way, in particular the way they are using Andre as a passer more and Tobias as an off ball threat more, but the fact does still remain that their best two players excel in the pick and roll. When Al Jefferson is playing center, I'd be fine with tossing the motion stuff and just attacking him over and over again a bit more, while also not leaning quite so heavy on the pick and roll at the end of games. Basically I'd like a bit more balance.
What do you think? Can Andre bounce back at the line? What is the ideal balance between motion and pick and roll?