Game Recap/Notes: Game #66. Pistons 99 - Bulls 83. (30-36)
Well, it is a step forward I suppose.
12 points on 11 equivalents with 3 rebounds and 3 assists in 31 minutes. I'm trying not to focus to much on how his lack of shooting has ruined so much and with that mindset he actually had a nice night. He especially made a couple of really nice plays in the 4th quarter to make sure the Bulls were not able to make things interesting. Smith was still awful defensively and it remains pretty perplexing to see Smith making Cameron Payne look like a viable NBA player. We will get concrete answers over the next couple of days, but the hope is that this was the last of Ish Smith as a starter which will be good for everyone.
This dude is a killer. He's largely moved back off ball after trying to put the ball in his hands extensively and it has been good for him. He and the team actually have come out of that experiment better for it, the Pistons have shifted those handoffs into Blake Griffin doing stuff which is good, while still having Bullock at a comfort level where he can still get the occasional hand-off and it doesn't look as clunky as it has in the past. When he has his feet set though, Bullock is comically good as a shooter, he remains a brilliant cutter, and is really learning how to effectively leverage Blake Griffin's presence on the floor to find gaps. He finished with 21 points on 12 shots with 3 boards and an assist in 33 minutes. The Pistons need one of their wings to pop to make this roster work long-term, and if Bullock can keep doing this it would be a god-send for the franchise.
I love this dudes game. 14 points on 10 shots with 3 rebounds, and 3 steals in 31 minutes. His shot is not quick but that is really the only downside to his game. His goofy, slow motion style contrasts with his explosive jumping ability in a super fun way, and I did not think he was this good at attacking closeouts when guys close out too hard on him. He has a real knack for finishing tough looks in the paint as well as being a tough defender. It is somewhat a sign of the tough situation the Pistons are in, but the Pistons have to hope they can afford to keep Ennis around next season because he could be a really important piece.
Blake Griffin tonight: 25 points on 19 equivalents, 8 rebounds, 8 assists (against 3 turnovers) and +19 in 35 minutes of play. Blake Griffin over the last 5 games: 24.8 points (shooting 48.4% from the field and 48% from deep), 6.6 rebounds, 6.4 assists (against 2 turnovers) with a true shooting percentage of 57.5%. It is still often ugly and there is plenty of work to do, but Blake Griffin has found his footing in Detroit. This is the guy the Pistons traded for, not the slow footed Josh Smith impersonator who was floating around. Griffin was great in this game, the Bulls didn't have a great answer for him, and he even managed to (finally) not allow a big game while guarding a three-point threat. In fact Lauri Markkanen was downright awful, scoring just 6 points on 12 shots and Bobby Portis (who Griffin also often checked) had 2 points on 10 shots. I'm not saying that Griffin was great defensively (he wasn't) but this is progress. And if the Pistons want to try and make a run for the playoffs they will need this version of Griffin the rest of the way.
The downside to Griffin finding his footing is that the Pistons have achieved it by aggressively hunting mismatches and letting Griffin isolate against them. This has resulted in Drummond fading from the offense and that continued in this one. Just 5 points on 7 shots is not good, but he made it up in other areas with 17 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, and 4 blocks. Hopefully Reggie Jackson's return helps since the Pistons can play pick and roll again, but this is actually the thing that will be trickiest about the Griffin/Drummond pairing. Maximizing both guys at the same time. Drummond did also go +18 on the night, behind only Griffin's +19 so he definitely had a good game overall.
MMMMmmmmm, Kennard. 10 points on 11 equivalents with 6 rebounds and 4 assists in 31 minutes of work. He had a awesome and brutish post up of Cameron Payne which was very cool and probably the best thing white people have achieved since the Magna Carta. One thing I really want to note here is that Luke Kennard snagged 6 rebounds. That is not a fluke, a goofy thing about Kennard's game from college was that he was a sneaky-good rebounder for his position and that has carried over to the NBA. He has a good nose for the ball and boxes out pretty diligently. Little things like that do matter over the course of a game and is a really nice piece of his game.
Moreland remains a guy who can be a bit hit or miss as his focus comes and goes a bit to decide if his manic energy is formed into something contructive or just wild. He was definitely on the right side of that in this one. His defense was very good which was reflected by his 3 blocks and a steal which went very nice with his 7 rebounds. On top of that, there has been a good trend for Moreland recently of that he is not as terribly gun shy as he has been most of the year. He scored 8 points on 5 shots in this game, which puts him at an average of 5.3 per game over the last 6 games (which starts with the Bucks game where this trend started.) which is a meager amount, but when you consider that he is still sitting at just 1.8 points per game (!!!) on the season this is a big improvement. This is a good trend because I'm pretty sure he is able to do scoring closer to this level than what he had been at. In the G-League he averaged nearly 13 points per game (over 44 games last year so there is real sample size there) on very good efficiency. If you've interest go watch some of his highlights there, he can hit hook shots and has decent touch around the rim, obviously it is different in the NBA but my man was averaging 5.6 points per 36 minutes lol. If he actually goes up when he has space it will make the bench mob a little less terrible defensively and they need every bit of help they can get on that end. Basically as a scorer, I think he could be close to Aron Baynes minus the jumper, which is not all that good, but at least able to fairly effectively finish looks that are created for him.
Back in the rotation with Dwight Buycks out and ho baby he is no better. 4 points on 6 equivalents and just 1-5 from the field. He did manage 3 assists and also made a couple of really good hustle plays (including making a tough layup) when the Bulls were threatening to get within striking distance which was nice. Still though, ew.
Ouch. 0-5 with no points in 12 minutes. Tolly did not have a good outing.
The Pistons continue to be bit by having stretches where they turn the ball over a ton. This is not something that has been a problem in the SVG era. They are simply not good enough to get away with sloppy play. Fortunately the Bulls are terrible and the Pistons really got going after that terrible start to the game. Also as a slight note worth mentioning is that there is a reason the Bulls have basically stopped playing Robin Lopez (and indeed benched him in the second half of this game) and its because the Bulls actually have some offensive firepower with Markkanen, Portis, LaVine, and Holiday, and Robin Lopez is a dude who is (and always has been) the type who single-handedly makes gives you a certain amount of competence defensively. Still, you would've preferred this to be a little bit more emphatic of a win, even though the Pistons clearly controlled the game after the first quarter that sloppy opening frame kept them from really blowing it open. That said, it still ended up being fairly comfortable so I'm not going to complain too much.
What do you think? Can Reggie Jackson save the Pistons? Is Reggie Bullock the dopest dude ever?