Film Room: Pistons vs Heat. Reggie Jackson revival and Glenn Robinson the Starter.

We are doing a promotion with Green-Dot Stables! Follow me, Tyler Moorman, Ku Khahil, and Jon Zuck on twitter and share our stories this month. At the end of the month, each one of us will have a $20 gift card to Green-Dot Stable for use at their restaurant in Detroit or Lansing.

The Pistons lost in heartbreaking fashion to the Miami Heat, 120 - 115 in overtime. The biggest storylines of the night were Glenn Robinson III starting and Reggie Jackson finding his groove.

What do you think of the lineup change?

I am a bit curious if Casey see’s Robinson as the long-term starter at small forward even when Reggie Bullock gets back healthy. Dwane Casey has a long history of wanting a proper high-level wing defender in his starting lineup, with Bullock out he could start Brown next to Robinson. So it’ll be interesting to see if Casey goes with Robinson and Bullock.

Regardless, I mostly, remain in favor of starting Stanley Johnson. This game showed a glimpse into a potential future without Johnson in the starting lineup. Jason Richardson tore up the Pistons and that will be a regular occurrence if they role with a rotation like this game. Think of the two years with Marcus Morris starting at small forward and remember that no one other than Johnson is even on Morris’ level on defense.

That said, the starting lineup was having clear issues and at very least it is worthwhile for the Pistons to explore other options. I’m not convinced it will work long-term but it isn’t a bad idea to give it a try.

So how did him starting go?

It went well for the most part. More than anything he did what they wanted him to do as a starting lineup. He scored 16 points on 13 shot equivalents and shot 2-4 from deep which is not something Stanley Johnson does very often. Playing two-man game like this for a quick pull-up three is something Stanley Johnson doesn’t do ever.

That isn’t something that Robinson has really shown before but Robinson hasn’t really spent much time with Griffin on the floor. If he could potentially make these sorts of plays with regularity it would be a big step towards him cementing himself as a starter. I’m not sure that Casey has the creative spark to make great use of it, but having both wing players being able to comfortably go into a two-man game with Blake like this (assuming Bullock is still starting when he comes back) could be a boon for the offense. And for what its worth, they did even get a little creativity going with something from Robinson’s college days.

Robinson can jump out of the building. When he played at Michigan they found lots of creative ways to get him alley-oops and other fun stuff. Robinson is a definite downgrade on defense from Stanley, so to make him a clear improvement over Stanley he has to be used as more than just a spot-up guy who people actually guard on offense. Both of those plays, the two-man game with Blake and a fun alley-oop, are good examples of how to make sure Robinson is worthwhile to start.

Is he really that big a downgrade on defense?

Yeah. Stanley Johnson is a different animal on defense. In particular Robinson is not as big, strong, and tough-minded against bigger players. That said, Robinson does bring one thing that Stanley doesn’t. For all his speed, strength, and toughness, Stanley Johnson does not jump very high. Glenn Robinson does.

This is a really nice party trick for Robinson. As a wing player he obviously doesn’t get a ton of opportunities, but in a pinch he can provide some legit rim-protection.

So about Reggie Jackson. First off, the most basic sense is that he got to not just handle the ball, but he got to run some pick and rolls which is something that the Pistons should’ve been doing more of from the start. They even did it while Blake was on the floor and used him as a spot-up guy off the ball!

What a remarkable concept. Instead of posting up Blake Griffin every single possession and using Jackson purely as an off-ball shooter, you can occasionally flip the script. It helps keep Blake Griffin from over-working himself, lets Drummond do what he does best which means he isn’t posting up, and helps to add some extra flavor to the offense.

Jackson having the ball in his hands more also resulted in some extra stuff for Andre Drummond in the form of lobs and such.


I would like to see some more of this please. Let your two best offensive players do stuff together, good stuff happens.

Jackson also continues to show good effort on defense and been better about running in transition instead of sticking with his natural inclination to always slow it down.

All of this is a very good sign for Jackson and the Pistons. He’s their 3rd best player and second best offensive creator, they should be treating him as such.

We are going to talk about some of the very end of game stuff in a moment, lets hit on a few other things quick.

First off, Andre Drummond was too big and too strong in this game. It was excellent to see him bounce back from the Embiid fiasco.

Also there was this, which even though this particular one wasn’t that pretty it is very cool that the Pistons bigs can do this.

Ok so now to end of game stuff.

First off, the game-tying tip in by Andre Drummond.

In a totally un-shocking development, Dwane Casey decides that it would be better for Ish Smith to run the initial action. And in another totally un-shocking development Ish is unable to break down the defense in a helpful way and the possession descends into chaos. In the end, Jackson gets the ball, slices into the defense and draws enough attention for Drummond to easily tip in his miss.

Jackson especially has a remarkably soft-touch which makes things easy for Drummond. To be clear, this is mostly Andre Drummond being incredible, but Jackson’s ability to get into the paint and get a decent shot up is still worth mentioning.

So I was really not a fan of the decision to put Smith, Galloway, and Jackson on the floor for overtime and we are going to walk through that real quick. We’ve got two years worth of data that tells us what usually happens when you put the ball in Ish Smith’s hands in crunch-time, and it’s almost always this.

Both of these plays show the issue with Ish Smith, even if the second one ends up getting saved by a combination of Drummond’s rebounding prowess and Dwyane Wade’s lazy defense losing Jackson.

But here is the thing. Ish Smith is a guy who thrives on mistakes and holes in a defense. When there are openings, even small ones, he is excellent at attacking them. The problem is that he is almost totally incapable of creating those openings on his own other than the occasional cross-over in space.

This is also a big reason why he can be so effective all game, but in crunch time he becomes so totally ineffective. Against bench-mobs and mid-game defenses there are mistakes all over the place, and Ish’s speed allows him to slice right into them.

At the end of the game, against opposing starters who are locked in trying to finish off a win, defenses don’t very often make those mistakes on their own. The only openings that come along, come along because a offensive player creates them or fights through correct defense to get a look.

Now compare against some Reggie Jackson.

So you can see, Jackson is good enough to create gaps himself or simply shoot over the defense even when no gaps appear. The ability to create something out of nothing is probably the most difficult and rare ability at the NBA level, and while Jackson isn’t perfect (and not near Blake Griffin) but he is good at it.

So now that we’ve established that Jackson is a better option late in games why is it that Ish isn’t worthwhile to have on the floor at all?

First off, despite having hit a few threes to open up the season, he’s starting to miss and still no one guards him.

Not ideal.

Even though it didn’t show up in this particular overtime, Ish’s ball handling can still be highly helpful even when Jackson is on the floor and doing most of the ball handling. If Jackson creates a crease then Ish has something to work with.

The bigger issue is on defense.

By playing Jackson, Smith, and Galloway at the same time, you are essentially ensuring to get torched on defense. The way it reared its head here is that one of Ish or Jackson was guarding Jason Richardson.

In both cases, Ish and Jackson actually do a half-decent job on him. But the reality is, neither guys are very good defenders in the first place and against a guy like Richardson they are undersized just to make matters worse. Ish is fast enough to stay in front of him but Richardson simply shoots over him, Jackson doesn’t get totally blown by but he isn’t fast enough to stay quite close enough. Then you’ve got this.

Ouch. Ish is a pretty notorious off-ball defender, especially on closing out on shooters. He has a long history of fouling three-point shooters. That’s because he’s so small that the only way for him to really contest on shooters is to totally sell out. At the very least here, he realizes he lost Richardson off the ball and doesn’t make matters worse by fouling him. The other side is that he simply doesn’t contest at all against an elite three-point shooter.

So here is the basic breakdown. Jackson needs the ball over Ish, and when palying them with Galloway as well it ensures their defense is getting torched. While there is some benefit to having both guys on the floor on offense, late in games Ish’s effectiveness goes way down and he cramps your spacing.

Theoretically, the Pistons could put Stanley Johnson (or Bruce Brown) in for Langston Galloway in order to beef up the defense, but at that point you are going over the limit for non-shooters who no one guards. So it kind of has to be Ish.

Worth noting, if Reggie Bullock is healthy this is not as much of a issue. He’s a better/bigger defender than Ish or Galloway and he obviously gives you shooting. Put him on the floor for either guy and things are at least a bit better.

Also worth noting, I like the Jackson/Ish combination much better when Blake Griffin is on the floor. With Griffin as the fulcrum it works much better to have a pair of guys to work as secondary ball-handlers. Without Blake though, it just becomes a “My turn, your turn” thing and one of them is clearly a better option.

What about the final play?

Yeah I guess.

Got a good shot for a good shooter you take that every time. The one thing that a second viewing would show is that Jackson probably should’ve just kept it. Jackson passed the ball because Dwyane Wade stepped out to him, turns out that Wade wasn’t really stepping out to him but rather he just was going by. If Jackson holds onto the ball he’s got a clear shot at his favorite runner/floater/hook/whatever you want to call those shots. Still though, not much to complain about, you got an open look for a good shooter. Sometimes you miss.

Joseph SinkeComment