Game Recap/Notes: Game #40. Pistons 114 - Nets 80.
Excellent win for the Pistons. The Nets are obviously not good, but it doesn't matter who you are playing, when you win in that fashion it is super impressive. The Pistons played well offensively, but the main place they really got the job done was on the defensive end of the floor, the Nets are not a good offensive team but they never really had any chance. Just a great win for the Pistons.
Apparently playing on a hurt foot, Smith was not overly impactful in his 24 minutes of play but it was largely because he didn't have to be. Tobias Harris took most ball handling duties (more on this later) and Dwight Buycks was more than capable of letting him rest which amounted to Ish playing a fairly passive role that saw him score 8 points on 8 shots with 5 assists without a turnover. His best contributions were probably defensively tonight, where he largely was tasked with guarding Spencer Dinwiddie and he did a great job. Dinwiddie isn't as good as his recent play, but he is a real player and guys with size like him often give Ish trouble. While Ish had help in this regard from teammates (especially Drummond) but he did a really nice job.
His jumper seems to be a bit better but it still wasn't a effective night scoring the ball fro Bradley who had 13 points on 16 shots, he did redeem himself offensively by getting 5 assists with just 1 turnover though, and although he didn't really have anyone to specifically hound on the depleted Nets, he certainly was a cog in the Pistons dominant defensive performance. The assist total is indicative of that even though Bradley missed a too many shots, he was playing the way you want him to offensively. I talked about this in a quick tweet thread yesterday, but Bradley is still an effective offensive player, but when looking at that shot chart it is almost comically clear that the long twos are plaguing his game. He was more willing to attack into the paint tonight and it created problems for the Nets. He still needs to start hitting more shots, whether that means taking better shots, less shots, or just hitting more of them, but tonight was still a decent night for Bradley.
A happily quiet night for Bradley. Who finished with 7 points on 6 shots with 4 rebounds in 28 minutes. He was mostly fully content to drag a defender out of the paint and watch Tobias Harris and Andre Drummond score over and over which is fine with everyone involved. Bullock also joined in on the very good defensive outing.
22 points on 14 equivalents with 4 rebounds and an assist in just 26 minutes of play along with some of the better defensive play he has had this year is an excellent night. He got off to a quick start and was instrumental in putting the Nets away early. This is especially impressive considering that the Nets are not a terrible defensive team, and that his primary defender in Rondae Hollis-Jefferson is legit as well.
Here is the bigger picture though, it is officially looking like Tobias Harris may well have made the proverbial leap this year. We are just about to be half way through the year and he is still on pace for the greatest three point season in Piston history, meanwhile he looks way more comfortable as a actual ball handler. He went through a stretch where he noticeably struggled as he made the adjustment to defenses treating him as a three point threat. Early in the year he feasted on teams not guarding him on the perimeter as he rained death from deep, after a bit teams stuck closer to him and he was forced to start putting the ball on the floor more and attacking off of pump fakes and it took some adjusting. But he is starting to make the correct basic decisions as a ball handler that he may actually be able to qualify as a legit first option which has long eluded him. If Harris keeps it up it could be a real silver lining in Jackson's injury. Harris had already taken more ball handling duties than before in his career in the motion offense, but the Pistons were rightfully hesitant to put too much on his hands, but Jackson's injury forced the switch and he has looked mostly great. Tobias Harris may be creeping up from “Nice player but not a cornerstone” to joining Drummond as a long-term centerpiece for the Pistons. He will need to continue to prove it, but he has started down the path were it is a real possibility which is exciting. Lastly, shouts to Tobias Harris, shooting and playmaking (aka handling the ball for something other than just trying to get your own shot) are both things that have plagued him his entire career and been bugs that have held him back, and he has improved noticeably in both areas.
Wow. This was domination in it's purest form. 22 points on 18 equivalents, 20 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals, and 2 blocks in 31 minutes of play. In the first three quarters (Drummond didn't play at all in the last frame) the Nets did not get a single offensive rebound. Of course you should remember that the Nets do not exactly have imposing big men, but this is what you want your star to do when the opposing team is clearly outmatched.
On the other end of the floor, Drummond was just as good as he totally controlled the Nets offense. He corralled ball handlers, being largely responsible for Spencer Dinwiddie's total ineffectiveness, and snuffing out various drives to the hoop. We are also starting to really see the fruits of Drummond's labor in thinking one step ahead on defense. It took a while for offensive players to start to think about it, but Drummond's rim protection has officially begun to enter the mind of offensive players. There were a couple of different possessions tonight where a Nets player made a move towards the paint, only to see Drummond take a step towards them causing them to stop and pull up for jumpers, and this is not the first night this has happened. It is starting to be that the less brave inside finishers are avoiding Drummond altogether and even the more tenacious are needing to pull out extra tricks against him. There has started to be some talk of him for defensive player of the year, which I think is a little bit premature, but he is really becoming a force on defense.
I'm still hesitant about Buycks. He is currently sporting a true shooting percentage of 59% on the year, which is not all that likely to hold up given that in his last three G-League seasons he has put up 50%, 52.9%, and 52.5% in the same category. Simply put, it is not very often that a guy, especially a undersized guard, goes from the any lower league to the NBA and suddenly becomes a way more efficient scorer. But the eye test says that he is legit and probably in the NBA to stay. He can clearly shoot, and attacks the hoop with more zeal than someone his size has any right to. The main thing beyond that though that remains a saving grace for his staying power is that he continues to really play defense. Regardless of his ability to keep it up, he tore it up again tonight with 17 points on 12 equivalents with 3 assists in 24 minutes, he hit tough shots, got to the line, and was generally very good. On top of that, it is always fun to see a guy get his shot and make the most of it.
In his first game back from injury Johnson looked to be moving well but his game looked a bit off. In 20 minutes he didn't score, missing 3 shots from the field, with 5 rebounds and an assist. Regardless, it was nice to see him back on the floor as the Pistons will not have such ease scoring most nights without Jackson and they will need his defense.
13 points on 9 shots with 6 rebounds a steal and one fast break dunk for Kennard. They better not trade him.
Despite only 6 points in 17 minutes of play, Tolly went 2-3 from deep which was nice to see. He didn't do a whole lot else though which was fine.
2 points on 2 shots with 1 rebound and 3 assists and a tied for game high (with Dwight Buycks lol) +24 on the night. So I guess that will count as a solid outing for Moreland.
Boban, Galloway. Ellenson:
All played some garbage time. None of them really did anything worth mentioning.
The Pistons played a great defensive game even if the Nets are not much good offensively. If they can take care of business against Chicago and Charlotte as well it would be big. Without Jackson they will probably have a tendency to lose close games to good teams without Jackson's end-game pick and roll expertise to lean on, which makes it even more important to clean house against the teams you should beat.
Despite it all, the Pistons are nearly halfway through the season and they are on pace for just about 44 wins, tied for 6th in the conference, and very much within striking distance of 4th. Andre Drummond has unquestionably made a leap, Tobias Harris likely has as well. It isn't all going according to plan, but before you put the next fake trade into the machine to blow up the team just remember that things are not going all that poorly.
What do you think? Has Harris become a legit #1 option? Is Dwight Buycks really this good?