Game Recap/Notes: Game #1. Pistons 103 - Nets 100. (1-0)
Not a pretty win. Certainly some stuff that needs work and some things that are a legitimately concerning beyond just “early season issues that need improving” but still, got the win without two starters and the important guys were really good.
I'll address the late-game crap at the end. Aside from that, Jackson played pretty well. 19 points on 21 equivalents is less efficient than you want but not terrible concidering that Jackson had to create pretty most of those looks for himself. He also had 4 assists and was +3 in 35 minutes. His defense was definitely suspect in many points of the game but the defensive scheme was seriously suspect. I thought Jackson did a nice job through most of the game at picking his spots to do his thing and attack and when to let others (especially Blake) do their thing while he sat to the side. I was especially impressed with how him and Ish Smith did when on the floor together.
The problem of course is that you can't just ignore what happened at the end of this game. Jackson totally blew like three different possessions at the end, and even though he did end up hitting a couple of free throws and the Pistons won, that was really not good. There also was the first glimpse of some potential irritation between Jackson and Griffin. Who has the ball in those big moments is going to likely be a touchy subject for at least the early part of the season, the fact that Jackson, in this game, decided to largely ignore Blake is a very bad look. The Nets had absolutely no answer for Blake, there was no reason for Jackson to go it himself instead of feeding Blake and it went terribly. Sometimes when Jackson pulls this crap he hits the shots and you just shrug, that wasn't the case here and it very nearly cost the Pistons the game.
So, for most of the game I mostly liked how Jackson looked. I will want a second look to see where to split up blame for the defensive showing but Jackson will likely get at least a decent amount of that blame. But he did a good job of picking his spots, looked sharp with his touch, and even showed the explosion a few times. The end of the game was really unacceptable though, especially with Blake Griffin on the floor he cannot get away with that crap.
An honorary starter with Reggie Bullock hurt, Kennard played 19 minutes and didn't do too much. 7 points on 5 shots is nice, he also had 4 rebounds to continue his trend from last year as being a good rebounder for his position, he got cooked on defense a few times but wasn't too bad. I still very much hope that his lack of minutes is that they are easing him back in after he got hurt in the offseason. Worth mentioning that even though it didn't really show up in his stats, he does get some blame for the Pistons miserable start to this game.
Another honorary, and also surprise, starter filling in for Stanley Johnson. Brown played 19 minutes just as Kennard did. I do like Bruce Brown a lot, I'm not sure I like him enough to start him at this point, even if he's an honorary starter. He mostly showed the same stuff he did in Summer and preseason. His defense is already pretty high-level, he totally ate up D'Angelo Russell on one possession, and he has some offensive tools but he needs to work a ton on actually hitting shots. Nice to see him get some minutes, but he's even less of an offensive threat than Stanley Johnson is and until that changes I'm not sure that he should be getting real minutes.
Please remember that the Nets are just about as ill-fitted for defending Blake Griffin as anyone in the league. Essentially it will not be this easy most nights. Still, Griffin totally dominated this game and pretty well saved the Pistons on the offensive end. The Nets tossed Jared Dudley at him a lot and it went very poorly for the Nets. Griffin finished with a monster line of 26 points (on 22 equivalents), 8 rebounds, and 6 assists in 34 minutes. There was not anything complex about his game tonight, there wasn't any dancing with Reggie Bullock, he wasn't running big to big pick and rolls much, it was just a human battering ram taking it to a bunch of dudes who were way too small to stick with him. There is a certain light in which this is a bit worrying given that you don't want to be overly reliant on this sort of brute force all season, but it's nice to know you can lean on it.
With all that praise, I should say that his defense was, at times, lacking. The two or three times where Griffin was closing out to Jared Dudley only to have Dudley flay past him was not a nice thing to see. On the other hand, Griffin played with really good effort and clearly wanted this game badly which is what you want from him. Even with some defensive issues, this was a great game for Griffin.
Drummond was severely lacking in energy early in the game. I do wonder how much of it is simply adjusting to Casey's new defensive scheme which has him playing much more conservatively, and foul trouble only made matters worse for Drummond. That said, Drummond still finished with a monster night, 24 points on 23 equivalents with 20 rebounds and a pair of assists, one of which was a beauty give and go with Luke Kennard. Especially in the second half, Drummond and Griffin decided that the Nets were simply too small to handle them inside, so the all-star front-court turned the paint into a UFC octagon and bludgeoned the Nets into a pulp. And despite Drummond continuing to struggle on defense as he was blatantly trying to avoid fouling, he made an impact on the offensive end and on the last few possessions of the game went all out on defense for a couple of hugely important stops. So in the end, this was not as dominant a performance for Andre as most of his 20/20 games are, but make no mistake, Drummond was pretty dominant in this game.
Oh yeah he also hit a three.
Despite Luke Kennard starting Galloway played the major minutes at 33. He was not overly impactful on the game, spending most of his night standing aside while Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond pasted the Nets inside. He did score 6 points on 5 shots and get 3 rebounds in 33 minutes. So not an impactful game for Galloway but he certainly didn't do much wrong.
Another big minutes guy at 29 for the night, which included significant time next to Reggie Jackson, Smith had a great stretch early in the game, slowed down later but still finished with a solid outing. 11 points on 11 shots is a line that you hope Ish reaches even if it isn't all that good, he only had 3 assists as well but he caused the Nets some real issues with his speed. He also hit a three, going 1-3 from deep. I wonder how much Casey will use Ish alongside Jackson when Bullock and Johnson are healthy and I'm not totally sure how it will go in larger sample-sizes, but it worked pretty well tonight and Ish is off to a good start to the season.
Glenn Robinson III:
In Robinson's Piston debut he was a bit underwhelming. 4 points on 3 shots and one really impressive block in 20 minutes. Like Galloway, the nature of the game resulted in him standing around while Blake and Andre took turns playing battering ram with various Brooklyn defenders.
Jon Leuer is not back in game shape yet so Pachulia is in. 6 points on 7 equivalents with 7 rebounds, 4 assists, and 5(!!!!!) fouls in 15 minutes for Pachulia. This is pretty much the full package for Zaza. He will mostly do the right stuff and be in the right places, he's a sneakily skilled offensive player who sets great picks and can pass, and he will foul the crap out of opponents. He was fine in this game.
Bit of a shock to see him get on the floor, but he only played 4 minutes and did nothing other than miss a shot.
Ugly win, but a win. There's some big picture stuff from this game that could become worrisome but it is probably best to give some more time before going to deep into those, especially since two of the Pistons starters missed this game.