Game Recap/Notes: Game #29. Pistons 109 - Pelicans 112. (21-18)
Rough way to lose a game, especially considering that a few things broke the Pistons way that gave the a good chance. In the end though, close game against a pretty good team isn't anything to get into too much of a fit about.
Smith had a really good game overall, and if it weren't for a few bad mistakes down the stretch it would've probably been his best as a starter. 16 points on 14 equivalents with 6 rebounds and 4 assists in 34 minutes of play along with not being a total sieve against Rondo. Ish was aggressive and got some good looks by forcing the issue a bit and didn't have to do it with jumpers very much, other than a few that the Pelicans gave him tons of space for.
The trouble came down the stretch, where two possessions he got totally outmuscled by Rondo for buckets and he also missed an absolute bunny off a Tobias Harris air ball that was absolutely killer. He isn't the only one who blew it at the end, but he certainly was one of them.
Depending on how you view this game it was either terrible, mediocre, or awesome for Bradley. On one hand, it was terrible because he was HOT garbage early in the game and also totally blew the second to last possession of the game by taking a shot that he didn't even remotely need to take, it was mediocre because he scored 24 points on 24 equivalents with 6 assists against 3 turnovers in 35 minutes, but it was also awesome because in the second half he came alive by finally finding his jumper which hopefully signals that he can be out of his post injury slump.
If we take out the horrific last couple possessions this is definitely a positive game for Bradley. He could not get any jumpers to fall in the first half, but he played his usual defense and got to the hoop a few times for nice plays, then he finally found his shot in the second half and continued to play very good defense the entire night by forcing Jrue Holiday into a night of 14 points on 20 equivalents with 3 assists and 7 turnovers. Between the defensive excellence of two straight games, and seeming to finally find his jumper back in the second half of this one we can tentatively assume that Bradley is all the way back up to speed.
What about those last possessions though?
Yeah not good. The very last one wasn't as big a deal because the Pelicans played it really well and by the time Bradley had the ball he didn't really have much option other than to heave up a three. On the possession before that though, wow that was bad. After Tobias Harris made an ineffective drive to the hoop, Bradley followed suit and ended up puking up a contested fadeaway with enough time left that he could've just passed it out and tried once more for a better look.
My man keeps putting in solid work. He is limited in his creation ability, but 10 points on 10 equivalents with 3 boards and 3 assists in 32 minutes is solid. The only real gripe with his game tonight is that E'Twuan Moore had such a huge game often at the expense of Bullock.
Tobias continues to play really well and exactly the sort of basketball that the Pistons need from him in order to compete without Jackson. 25 points on 20 equivalents with 4 rebounds and 4 assists in 38 minutes is nice on its own, but especially nice when you remember that most of those buckets are of the tough variety where Tobias is doing most of the heavy lifting. The only downside is that I think his recent attempts to draw more fouls has maybe started to go a little bit too far as there were two possessions where he chucked up ugly shots hoping to get a foul call that just wasn't there. That said, he shot 6 more free throws tonight and continues to look very good without Jackson.
Unfortunately for Harris there was also defense. Eventually he was saved by Davis hurting his ankle, and it isn't a huge sin to not be able to guard Anthony Davis, but holy smokes he could not guard Anthony Davis. Like he was totally and completely helpless against him and it was a huge problem.
The numbers are not all that flashy, 16 points on 14 equivalents with 14 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, and a block in 38 minutes, but Andre had a really nice game I thought. He was effective on both ends of the floor, and did a nice job balancing the very difficult task of helping inside when he could while not yielding tons of open threes to Davis or Cousins. I was especially impressed by the way he played defense down the stretch of the game, after Cousins really got going against Moreland in the 4th quarter and then gave it too Drummond on a couple of possessions, Drummond bucked up and really played good defense. He was too sloppy with his passes on his way to 4 turnovers on offense, and even the ones that didn't result in turnovers were just not as crisp and accurate as they normally are. Instead of slick passes into the pocket of shooters they were slightly off center, but on the plus side he put some a couple of really nice post moves on smaller Pelican defenders.
The best news to come from this game for Drummond though is that he looked healthy, energetic, and active. After missing two of the last three and looking clearly hobbled in the one he did play there was some worry that perhaps his bruised ribs would become a bigger problem, but given the way he looked tonight I'd say those worries are gone.
One last note, is that if any of you wondered how important Drummond's paint presence is to the Pistons defensively, or why it is that Cousins and Davis have mostly worked together offensively this year, this game illustrated it perfectly. Cousins is a legit shooter, over 35% on 6+ attempts per game, but is also a huge bully in the paint. Even though Davis is fully capable in the paint, there is no way you will survive putting a smaller guy on Cousins. So when a team relies on their center to hold down the middle as much as the Pelicans do, they simply let Cousins loiter around the three point line while Drummond helplessly watches Anthony Davis score basket after basket on overmatched power forwards. This is especially effective in today's NBA since so many teams going smaller and faster means that their center is the only real rim protecter on the floor, if you can so consistently draw the center out it really messes with modern NBA defenses. Regardless, Drummond did a good job with a crazy tough assignment, but it showed the holes the Pistons have in size and this is actually a game that it would've been nice to have Jon Leuer for.
Tolly has officially lost his shooting touch and needs to find it back badly. He scored 2 poitns on 4 shots and missed all 3 of his long balls tonight. In good news he was at least slightly more effective than Tobias Harris at guarding Anthony Davis, but it wasn't a big step up given that he still go cooked pretty bad. Tolly has played really good defense all year and with his added dribble bounce he is less reliant on his shooting to be an effective player, but make no mistake, he needs to find his shot back to be really effective.
10 points on 11 equivalents with 1 assist in 14 minutes of play. I am still nervous about him, because making a living as a undersized point guard who's best skill is getting tough buckets is a very hard living to make in the NBA, but for now it is mostly working. The one thing that continues to bode well for his staying power is that he plays defense, but if a couple more of those tough jumpers miss then he will be in a tough spot.
Not a great night for Kennard who finished with 6 points on 6 equivalents with a pair of rebounds in 12 minutes, but he was fine. His ability to score in the in between areas continues to be impressive and it really bothers defenses, but he just didn't play a whole lot tonight.
Looked very good for a bit by harassing Cousins and taking his head out of the game and playing pretty sound defense. Then in the 4th quarter Cousins got out of his own way and forced Drummond back into the game, probably a couple minutes earlier than planned. That said, Moreland shouldn't really be expected to effectively guard Cousins and the fact that he did effectively for a while is a plus.
Its rough to lose like that but you can't dwell on it too long. Some people will question SVG not calling a timeout before the second to last possession but I'm fine with that. He has pretty consistently done it and it has paid off sometimes, it didn't this time as the Pistons looked out of sync and didn't really seem to have any plan but it works sometimes so whatever. The bigger mistake SVG made was letting Ish Smith be the inbounds man on the last possession. The Pistons needed a three, and Ish doesn't shoot threes, so the Pelicans literally didn't guard him and were able to smother the action the Pistons ran as a result.
What do you think? Is Bradley's shot back for good? Would you have called a timeout?