Game Recap/Notes: Game #4. Pistons 110 - Cavaliers 103. (4-0)
Another ugly win, this time was especially ugly. But hey, 4-0 is still good!
Jackson had one of his quieter (and least effective) games of the season although it was largely due to him struggling from the line. 16 points on 17 shot equivalents is not good, but he went just 5-10 from the free throw line which is obviously not something that is going to happen with much regularity to a free throw shooter like Jackson. He continues to show good comfort in the offense and seems to be working well with Blake Griffin in terms of when to attack and when to deffer. This game was a little bit different for Jackson though, as Ish Smith got hurt so the Pistons did not finish the game with both Ish and Jackson on the floor together.
Overall it was still a pretty solid game for Jackson. 16 points and 4 assists in just 23 minutes of play (he had some foul trouble) is a tidy stat-line even if he missed a bunch of free throws. The best news is that he continues to have a few moments each night where he cooks a defender off the dribble which is a good sign of where he is at health-wise.
Bullock continues to really struggle out of the gate this season. In 32 minutes tonight he scored just 5 points on 11 shot equivalents. He did manage 6 assists which helps his final stat-line a bit but it is still bad. I have confidence in Bullock to find his shot, but I am starting to worry about he offense and it’s ability to find him good looks. Too many of the his two-man sets with Griffin result in him puking up long twos, and teams are giving a lot of attention to him off the ball making it hard for him to free himself with the Pistons simple offensive approach.
Showing some real signs of life for the first time this season. Johnson only played 25 minutes, but he scored a tidy 7 points on 5 shots and had a pair of steals and several other really nice defensive plays. His long-distance shooting remains a problem, no one is guarding him, and given how small a role he has had in the offense so far it is fair to assume that he isn’t going to make a Jimmy Butler type of leap like some had hoped. That said, he has looked fairly comfortable and the Pistons do not be appearing to ask too much of him which I suppose is a good thing. Lastly, please remember, that when the Pistons start to run into more high-level wing scorers (which they will in their next game against the Celtics) we will all be much more thankful that Stanley Johnson is around.
Griffin did come back to earth a little bit in this game, which is fine given that he was totally out of this world in the last one. Fortunately, coming down to earth did not mean any sort of a collapse, it simply meant that he wasn’t on pure God-level play. Griffin finished the night with a still incredible 26 points on just 15 shot equivalents (which, for any wondering, is stupidly efficient) with 10 rebounds and 3 assists. The main place he had some serious regression was with 6 turnovers on the night after having just 2 in his first three games. The big news is that Griffin remains an absolute supernova from deep, shooting 4-5 from beyond the arc in this game. At some point, probably sooner than later, Griffin is going to regress with his shot, but for now it is very fun to watch him play.
The one caveat here is that once again Griffin was clearly able to out-class his match-up. With Kevin Love out the Cavs started Channing Frye and also had Tristan Thompson guard him quite a bit. For those keeping score at home, the starting power forwards that he has gone up against this year are: Jared Dudley, Bobby Portis, Dario Saric, and Channing Frye. It will get tougher than this for Griffin, but it is great to see him making the easy match-ups count.
Lastly is that there was some visible confusion from Blake (and others) as to what to do when the Cavaliers started sending full double-teams to him which helped to contribute to his high turnovers. His lack of assists despite the constant double-teaming is also a pretty good indication that the Pistons struggled to react. It is certainly not time to panic, but it is a bit worrying. Casey’s biggest flaw as a coach has always been his inability to make changes to react to opponent success. Blake firmly put himself on everyone’s radar in a huge way in these opening games, and teams are going to get creative in defending him and the Pistons will have to come up with some things to help the offense continue to work.
After a rough outing against Joel “the flopper” Embiid and the 76ers, Drummond responded with a great showing. 26 points on just 20 shot equivalents with 22 rebounds (6 of which were offensive) and +10 on the night (3rd on the team) in 37 minutes of play was great to see for Drummond. The best news coming out of this game was Drummond’s scoring efficiency. Early in the season he has had serious issues with it, with his true shooting percentage well under 50%, to see him get some more easy buckets tonight was very nice.
It is a bit funny, only Andre Drummond is capable of putting up such a monster stat-line and having it be somewhat quiet, but that’s exactly what it was. He was just the background noise the entire night, constantly there cleaning the defensive glass and dunking on whoever happened to be guarding him. He does still need to figure out how he is going to play defense in the new scheme though because the whole thing remains an absolute mess.
Galloway continues to be a favorite of Dwane Casey, playing 27 minutes tonight. Galloway was fairly effective, if in small volume, with 8 points on 7 equivalents and 3 rebounds. Not a whole lot else to say. He hasn’t been overly involved in the offense this season despite playing so many minutes. But he certainly is providing spacing and he competes on defense.
Smith played 26 minutes and left a bit early with an apparent ankle injury. It didn’t look like it was that bad in the moment and it didn’t force him to go to the locker room which is a good sign for both him and the Pistons. In the end it was another fairly effective game for the diminutive point guard. 10 points on 7 shots, including 2-4 from deep, with 4 assists. His scoring efficiency is almost certain to fall off but it is very fun for now while he is hitting shots. Now we simply have to hope that he isn’t hurt for long.
Started off the game absolutely brilliantly. 8 points on a perfect 4-4 from the field with an assist. Then a hard screen from Channing Frye sent him out of the game holding his shoulder. Early reports are that it is strained and possibly separated which would likely mean he misses at least a month of game action which would hurt the Pistons on the floor and me in my soul.
Played 10 minutes, misses a couple of shots and hit a couple of free throws. Did nothing of much note.
Glenn Robinson III:
Got 10 minutes of burn, presumably due to the Luke injury, and looked pretty good. Only got up 2 shots, and hit one of them, but he did make several nice plays. Especially if Ish joins Kennard in injury, it is very likely that Robinson will see the floor more in the coming nights.
Got a couple of minutes. Drew a flagrant foul but missed both the free throws. Didn’t do anything else. This does continue to back up that Casey sees Brown as a fairly ready player and if Smith and Kennard both miss significant time it is likely to mean occasional burn for the rookie.
Ugly game, I still kind of hate the way that the Pistons have looked and the style they are playing on both ends of the court. That said, even if it is against weak competition, they are 4-0 and have not let their (hopefully) simple early-season struggles cost them games. They should’ve won all 4 of these games, and they did so credit to them. They will have a tougher time coming up with a pair of games against the Celtics which will give them a chance to add some quality wins.