Opponent Scouting: Washing Bullets. (25-20)

Tonight at 8:00pm EST the Pistons will be hosting the Washington Wizards at the LCA on ESPN. The Pistons are on one day of rest after losing to the Raptors as are the Wizards after losing to the Hornets. (who have suddenly won 5 of their last 7 btw)

 

The Them:

The Wizards are a good team that struggles to keep their intensity high and also are rather susceptible to injuries given a lack of depth. They come into this game featuring the 11th best offense in the NBA at 106.4 points per 100 possessions and the 11th best defense at 104.9 points per 100 possessions which is good for the 9th best net rating of +1.6.

For the second straight game the Pistons will be going against an excellent back court. John Wall is a phenomenal playmaker who's violent drives wreck havoc on opposing defenses on his way to 9.3 assists per game, and while his focus is not always all the way there on defense he is generally good and occasionally great on that end. The downside to Wall is that he continues to not be all that good a shooter and his scoring is very inefficient. Bradley Beal is his mate in the backcourt and he is basically the yin to Wall's yang. Beal is a sweet shooting, smooth moving guard. Beal's three point percentage is down a bit from previous years but he takes a ton of them and many are high difficulty, he has also improved his ball handling and playmaking to be a real threat out of pick and rolls and as an attacker of the hoop, while also being a long armed defender. They both have some flaws, but they are both excellent players.

Beyond them the Wizards continue to support them with a killer starting lineup. Otto Porter is a role player but may well be in the conversation for best role player in the NBA. Dude defends, rebounds, and never freaking misses on his way to a 3 point percentage of 42.5%. Marcin Gortat has fallen off a bit this year but he still sets great screens, has good touch around the basket, and is generally in the right place on defense. Markieff Morris has finally started to find his way after being injured to start the season, he is a tough isolation scorer, defender, and rebounder much in the same vein as his twin that Pistons fans are familiar with.

The Wizards have found some stability off the bench this year even if it is still a weak point. Kelly Oubre is a tenacious collection of swiping and swatting limbs and has found some basic offensive game although his offense has slowly declined as his minutes with Wall decrease. Mike Scott is having a career year shooting 44% from deep and continuing to do fun things as a sort of ball handling and bouncy power forward. Tomas Satoransky is a goofy player who may or may not actually be good, sometimes he looks very good and sometimes he looks like a 6'7 white dude who just wandered onto the court. Jodie Meeks is here but is shooting just 31% from deep, Tim Frazier has been mostly bad, Ian Mahinmi has picked up a little bit after a terrible start but he's also been bad.

All in all this is a very solid team. They have a pair of stars and a starting lineup that can compete with anyone, and while the bench remains an issue they have some competency with oubre and Scott.

 

Matchups to watch:

  • Drummond vs. Pick and Rolls: Wall and Gortat continue to be one of the best pick and roll combinations in the NBA by both volume and effectiveness. Wall is a blur, and Gortat is smart and skilled. Drummond's ability to defend pick and rolls has been his biggest defensive improvement this year, and he will be very tested in this one. Stopping that pick and roll is the Pistons first job, and it falls largely on him.

  • Bradley vs. Beal (lol): Beal is a bit bigger than Avery but given how well he handled DeRozan in the last game I'm not so worried about that now. If Avery (and everyone else) can keep Beal in check then it will put more pressure on Wall to score, which is generally a good thing.

  • Ish Smith vs. Hitting a shot occasionally: Please don't go 1-12 and 1-4 from the line again. Please.

  • Tobias Harris vs. Bouncing back: It will be tough given that the Wizards have 3 guys who should be able to keep up with him defensively, but Harris has had two straight rough games and will need to bounce back. Especially with Jackson out, the Pistons have no scheme to counter Tobias playing poorly.

 

So in conclusion...

 

Wink knowingly at your friends if:

  • Avery Bradley is stealing Beal's soul.

  • John Wall is forcing bad shots, and missing.

  • Tobias Harris bursts triumphantly from his two game slump.

 

Run for the hills if:

  • John Wall is getting layups.

  • Ish Smith and/or Avery Bradley are taking lots of long twos. (oh wait this is for sure going to happen no matter what lolkillmeplz)

  • The Pistonss bench gets outplayed by the Wizards' bench again.

 

Opportunities for me to look stupid:

  • Otto Porter scores a bunch.

  • Ish Smith finds his shot back.

  • Reggie Bullock scores 20+

  • The Pistons play strong defense the entire game and shoot well from deep on their way to a victory.

  • Pistons 105 – Wizards 97.

 

What do you think? Can Tobias bounce back? Can the Pistons contain Wall and Beal?

Game Recap/Notes: Game #43. Pistons 91 - Raptors 96. (22-21)

Rough game. Drummond was incredible after the first quarter, the bench played well, the Pistons played solid defense for most of the game. Too many mistakes, too many Tobias Harris fouls, too many Ish Smith shots, too many Kyle Lowry back-breaking pull-up threes. This is another game where it is only really concerning because the Pistons are officially on a bad slide at this point. In a vacuum there is nothing to be ashamed of in losing a closely contested game in Toronto.

 

Box score.

 

Ish Smith:

Fart noise.

 

Avery Bradley:

This may seem stupid given that I specifically highlighted how it is not a good thing that Bradley has been leading the Pistons in shot attempts (by a decent margin) since his return from injury and he did so again tonight, but I think this was his best game since coming back. First off, he was excellent on defense with 2 steals and did a hugely impressive job on DeMar DeRozan who scored just 17 points on as many equivalents and turned the ball over 5 times. What him and Drummond did to the Raptors pick and roll at the end of the first half should be illegal.

On the other end, despite leading the team in shot equivalents with 20, this time it was a bit different. He didn't pull up for long twos, he drove to the hoop. Drummond scored at least 4 times off of Bradley misses where Bradley drew the entire defense. Here is the thing, I am not saying that it is totally justified in letting Bradley shoot so much or that it makes up for all the turnovers and such, but there is real value in the fact that when Bradley puts his head down and goes to the hoop, he is going TO THE HOOP. The sheer tenacity with which he barrels to the basket draws extra defenders which unlocks Drummond, and this is especially important with Jackson out. Ish Smith isn't worrying enough to ever really draw a crowd, and Tobias Harris will forever be a guy who prefers to use his long limbs to stretch out and over the defense instead of bullying through it. Even Jackson doesn't attack as fearlessly as Bradley but he is just so freaking cagey in the paint that he is awesome. Simply put, the Pistons need someone who is willing to push the freaking envelope and Bradley did it. If he drives to the hoop like that every night then I don't care if he is shooting this much with Jackson out.

 

Are you really not going to do Ish Smith?

I like Ish Smith. I don't know if I want to have the conversation with you that I'm having in my head.

 

I am in your head. This is literally a bold text of you anticipating what other people will say.

Fair enough.

 

Ish Smith:

Holy crap was this a disaster. Smith had 3 points on 14(!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) equivalents in 31 minutes played, while also having Lowry get enough space to launch threes on several possessions (which is obviously tough, like that happens but still) with his only redeeming quality on the night being that he did manage 5 assists against just 1 turnover. Goodness though this was ugly. He shot 1-12 from the field and 1-4 from the line. He forced up too many shots, went out of the offense too often, and was generally terrible.

I don't know for sure. Maybe you just hope Jackson comes back and you ride it out, but I'm legitimately unsure if you can roll with Ish as the starter, or at least in crunch time. People figured it out as last season went on, and they are fully dialed in on it now. Smith cannot really be a part of a functional half-court offense and it is killing the Pistons right now. In good news my voicing of these concerns means he will probably find his jumper for the next game and score like 20 points.

 

Reggie Bullock:

2 points on 4 shots with an assist and a couple of steals. Props to him for making one of the great effort plays you will see where he full on laid out for a loose ball and then won the ensuing jump ball, like this wasn't a “He got to the floor first” this was a “he threw his entire body, headfirst, like 10 feet to get the ball.”

Other than that play though he had a bit of a rough go. The Raptors played him well to keep him from having much impact but he could've done a bit more.

 

Tobias Harris:

Back to back rough outings for Harris. 12 points on 15 equivalents with 3 assists against 2 turnovers just isn't good enough for Harris on this Pistons team. Without Jackson they need him to be that tough bucket getter and he just wasn't. He was in foul trouble a lot of the night and ended up fouling out but still managed 32 minutes. Just a bad game.

In the bigger picture, keep an eye on his trend for a bit. I showed a lot of praise to Tobias for his play since the Jackson injury, but now after two bad games it is possible he is regressing a bit. Hopefully he turns it around with a big game against Washington to end that talk.

 

Andre Drummond:

He wasn't all that good in the first quarter. He seemed hesitant and a half-step slow. But following his re-entry to the game in the second quarter he took over the game and was nothing short of brilliant. He finished the night with 25 points on 16 equivalents, 16 rebounds, a pair of assists, and 4 steals in 38 minutes of play. I mentioned it earlier but it is absurd what he and Avery Bradley did to DeMar DeRozan on a couple of possessions, and Drummond was generally a huge pest to Toronto ball handlers and the Raptors just had no answer on the other end once the Pistons went with the tried and tested offensive strategy of “Just go at Valanciunas over and over again”. It is hugely disappointing that this had to be a night when the rest of the starters crapped the collective bed, because he had a whale of a game.

In interesting news, for perhaps the first time ever I actually thought to myself “screw this, just give Andre the ball and see if he can score” in crunch time. This was more a result of everyone else playing so badly that I'd rather let Andre get a go simply as recognition of his effort on the night but still, he took Valanciunas off the dribble enough that it wasn't totally outlandish, just a little.

Beyond that it is nice to see him do this against Valanciunas. Drummond probably doesn't care since they were both losses sandwiched around him getting owned by Dwight Howard, but it is nice to see him have good games against Robin Lopez and Jonas Valanciunas given that both guys have real histories of getting the best of him.

 

Anthony Tolliver:

Tolly had a nice game. Forced into extended duty in an effort to combat Tobias' foul trouble and he scored 9 points on 6 shots (all threes) with 4 rebounds and a pair of assists. It was frustrating that he couldn't help more on the defensive glass but that has never been a strong suite of his.

 

Langston Galloway:

After getting dusted off, likely because Luke Kennard ended up not being quite good to go, Galloway produced on both ends of the court with 11 points on 8 shots with an assist and 4 steals. He got some extended time against the Raptors 3 guard looks and played really well.

 

Dwight Buycks:

Buycks looked a little bit like a G-Leaguer in this one. He scored 3 points on 5 shots but I think he had 3 shots blocked at the rim. In good news, he continues to show a pretty well rounded game to make up for the fact that there will be nights where he doesn't score well. He recorded 6 assists and played good defense in his 17 minutes and the Pistons bench outplayed their Raptor counter-parts.

 

BOBAN:

10 minutes, 7 points on 7 equivalents, 6 rebounds, a whole bunch of fouls drawn. I don't know man, I wouldn't mind them just tossing him out there every night defense be damned.

 

General:

Lowry hit shots, Pistons shot like crap other than Drummond, on the road, good team, hard to win. The Raptors are legit but it still sucks to lose, I don't usually buy into a lot of the psycological stuff people talk about, but I do buy into the idea that there is a real thing about being above .500 and as such the next game against the Wizards is pretty important. Stop the fall.

 

What do you think? How about Drummond? Should Ish play in crunch time? Is Tobias regressing a bit or is it just a couple bad games?

Opponent Scouting: Toronto Raptors. (29-13)

Tonight at 7:30pm EST the Pistons will be across the border to play against the Toronto Raptors. The Pistons are on one day of rest after losing to the Hornets on Monday, as are the Raptors after losing to the Sixers.

 

The Them:

The Raptors are really good, and the fact that people continue to sleep on them (in the regular season at least) is absurd. They have won more games than any other team in the East over the last several years and there was never any reason to think they would slow down much this year. They sport the 3rd best offense in the NBA at 110.6 points per 100 possessions and the 5th best defense at 103.3 points allowed per 100 possessions.

DeMar DeRozan is scoring 25.4 points per game, has started to shoot threes, and is generally remarkably good. Kyle Lowry is still probably the best point guard in the Eastern conference even though his volume numbers have declined a bit this year, but he plays both ends of the court, bombs threes off the dribble as well as anyone not named “Curry” and is a good passer.

Even though the Raptors remain a two star team first and foremost, they are so good because they have really good complimentary players to go with those two stars. Serge Ibaka is never going to end up being as good as some people thought he was going to be, but he can shoot, plays defense, and generally is a really good complimentary big man. OG Anunoby looks like a bonafide steal out of the last draft as a three and D guy, Jonas Valanciunas doesn't really defense so good but he can play offense and has always destroyed Andre Drummond. Delon Wright can shoot and is a good athlete, Pascal Siakam is a bouncy big guy who plays hard, C.J. Miles is a shameless three point chucker, Jakob “The Turtle” Poeltl does all of your basic big guy things and does them pretty well, Norman Powell is a good athlete although he has struggled with his shot this year. Fred VanVleet has been a really good player at point guard this year but he got hurt in the last game and his status is unknown.

This team is really good, DeRozan and Lowry are awesome and they have a bunch of other guys who can just play and they have a lot of continuity and comfort with each other. Who knows if they will put together a real playoff run or not but as far as winning games in the regular season goes, this team is very good.

 

Matchups to watch:

  • Drummond vs. JV: Valanciunas has consistently killed Drummond in the past and it still makes absolutely no sense. Drummond had a good game against Brook Lopez who has been another bizarre thorn in his side in the past so maybe he will beat this demon too. It is also important that Drummond bounce back from a terrible game against the Hornets.

  • Pistons vs. Playing defense: The Pistons must have good defensive effort and disposition from start to finish. They are not going to generate offense to win a shootout very often. They cannot be even a little bit lazy.

  • Avery Bradley vs. Not shooting so freaking much: Since returning from injury Avery Bradley has taken 119 shots from the field. Second place over those 7 games is Tobias Harris with 99. (If you throw in free throws then Harris isn't as far behind FWIW) Avery Bradley needs to not shoot so much.

  • Pistons offense vs. Reconfiguring: Lets keep going with this, guess who is 3rd over those 7 games? Ish Smith at 76. Guess who is 4th? Dwight Buycks with 67. So over the last 7 games the Pistons 1st and 3rd shot takers combine to have a true shooting percentage just under 50%. Lets not do that anymore.

  • Pistons vs. DeRozan: DeRozan is trouble. Avery Bradley is probably going to have problems with the size difference, but unless Stanley Johnson plays there isn't really a good option for him. It will likely be a team effort to try and contain him.

 

So in conclusion...

 

Wink knowingly at your friends if:

  • Drummond bounces back from a terrible game with a great one.

  • Someone other than Avery Bradley or Ish Smith leads the Pistons in shot attempts.

  • The Pistons play with a high defensive intensity the entire night.

 

Run for the hills if:

  • Avery Bradley is farting up long twos off the dribble. Juicy farts. Like “Do you need a tissue” farts.

  • DeRozan is slaughtering the Pistons and they have no answer for him.

  • Drummond will forever get destroyed by Valanciunas.

 

Opportunities for me to look stupid:

  • Drummond bounces back with a big game.

  • Tobias Harris and Serge Ibaka score many points.

  • The Pistons bench has a big game.

  • The Pistons win a nail biter with Tobias Harris scoring the game winning bucket.

  • Pistons 103 – Raptors 101.

 

 

What do you think? Can Drummond outplay JV? Can the Pistons bounce back?

Game Recap/Notes: Game #41. Pistons 105 - Bulls 107. (22-19)

What a rough game and a rough way for it to end. Very frustrating. Bulls shoot crazy well, Tobias has his first bad games in a while, some uh, questionable reffing decisions, and a two point loss.

 

Box score.

 

Ish Smith:

12 points on 11 equivalents with 6 assists without a turnover. Despite the numbers I still felt that this was a very mediocre game from Smith, he just never really seemed to hit his stride, I didn't feel like he had that many assists, and Kris Dunn scored 18 points. I don't know, perhaps the numbers should make me reconsider my opinion when the game ended, but I just didn't feel like he had much of an impact. I suppose that he didn't do much bad which is worth something.

 

Avery Bradley:

I mean, 26 points on 19 shots with 1 assists against 4 turnovers with 3 rebounds, 2 steals, and a block in 38 minutes of play. On one hand, Bradley was largely getting good shots and hitting them to the point that I'm pretty confident he has found his shooting touch back and 4 turnovers in 38 minutes of work is not too terrible a number (he handled the ball plenty enough) but once again it was the nature of them. Each turnover was bad, I think three of them were trying to slip a pass through two defenders that hit their feet each time, and he had a couple other possessions where he lost the ball out of bounds but the Pistons happened to keep it. Here is an official thing though, somehow, someway, this dude needs to have less ball handling duties. All of the numbers and eye test back up that he remains the same elite off ball shooter and player he was in Boston, but the Pistons attempts to put the ball in his hands more has been really bad, there is enough glaring evidence to support this at this point.

 

Reggie Bullock:

Ouch. Ouch. Ouch. 7 points on 9 shots with 5 rebounds and 2 assists in 35 minutes. In a basic sense it was a rough game for Bullock, missing three different layups on backdoor cuts, and also missing the potential game-tying layup on the break at the end of the game when he should've just passed it back to Tobias anyways and was also probably fouled. Regardless, it ends up being a rough night for Bullock.

 

Tobias Harris:

I don't want to pile on too much. I've mentioned several times how well Harris has played since Jackson went down and I'm going to start off by re-stating that. Tobias Harris has been awesome since Jackson went down, and him having found somewhat of an extra gear has been pretty much the only thing standing between the Pistons and a total offensive abyss.

With that out of the way, this was quite possibly the worst game of the season and Pistons tenure for Tobias Harris. 7 points on 15 equivalents is bad, even if helped a bit by 4 assists against 2 turnovers, but when combined with bad defense where he repeatedly failed to get out to shooters made this a truly awful game. I'd have to go back and re-watch to decide exactly how many of the 8 (Out of 16) threes hit by Chicago power forwards were really his fault, but on first viewing I'd say “many” it was just a bad game on both ends. That said it is important he has a short memory as this loss makes it even more important that they beat the Hornets in a couple of days.

 

Andre Drummond:

Drummond had a better game than the other starters, 21 points on 16 equivalents with 15 rebounds, 4 assists (against just 1 turnover), 2 steals, and 3 blocks in 34 minutes of play speaks for itself. That said, he was not as good defensively tonight and it was a problem. Others failed in bigger ways further on, but there were several plays where the initial defensive breakdown was Drummond being a step late on his rotation. It isn't the worst thing the world but it is a bit frustrating after he had such a great defensive game against the Nets. All in all though it is hard to complain too much, he had a huge game in the box score and single handedly kept the Pistons in the game for a stretch in the 4th quarter by destroying Bobby Portis on repeated possessions.

 

Luke Kennard:

Dude continues to be a really effective player. 9 points on 8 shots, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, a steal, and a block in 23 minutes of play. He had a couple passes that were a off but that happens with rookies. Luke Kennard can really ball.

 

Dwight Buycks:

Rougher game for Buycks by scoring 10 points on 12 shots with 3 assists and a couple of those shots got utterly swatted by the Bulls defense to expose Buycks' lack of size, but he still kept attacking the paint and playing the right way. Given that the Pistons have converted him to a real contract it is fair to say that he is here to stay, so at this point you want him to keep playing as hard as he is and hope the shots fall.

 

Anthony Tolliver:

Had his first really nice offensive game in a few weeks with 10 points on 6 equivalents along with 4 boards, but he joined Tobias Harris in really struggling to close out to shooters.

 

Eric Moreland:

3 points on 2 shots with 5 boards and 5 assists in 14 minutes of work. The Bulls defense made Moreland have to make plays on a lot of possessions, and while it wasn't always pretty or crisp, Moreland got a chance to show that as far as backup big men who mostly play hard defense go, he has some decent passing abilities and made the right passes with enough regularity to keep the offense on pace which was nice to see. Solid game from Moreland.

 

General:

The Pistons only had 12 turnovers but they were bad ones. Tobias Harris played terrible, the Bulls hit a bunch of threes, and the Pistons definitely got the short end of the reffing stick. Its frustrating because all that went wrong and the Pistons still nearly won, because the Pistons are a much better basketball team than the Bulls are, but the Pistons just made too many mistakes combined with too many things breaking the Bulls way. One thing, if you are going to criticize SVG for the way things went at the end, at least give him some credit for letting them play defense on that last possession because the end result was a 2 on 1 fast break, as SVG's preference to generally let them play it out paid off in a big way, Bullock just blew it. I don't know, it sucks but it happens. Close games like this combined with harris being so bad for a night is where the Pistons really miss Reggie Jackson. Speaking of which.

 

Some good news to hopefully perk you up at least a bit.

It is twofold. First off, if you include the game he got hurt in (which I'm going too because I've got a narrative to sell here) the Pistons are 5-5 without Jackson, and as frustrating as a couple of those losses have been, I'd say most of us would not be overly disappointed if the Pistons get Jackson back having played anywhere above .500 in the time he missed. And on that, Jackson is (supposedly) on schedule for the optimistic return table of two months. He is off crutches and in a boot, and coaches and players are officially starting to talk about “When Reggie gets back.” It isn't going to be pretty, it is often going to be no fun at all, but if they can stay afloat it looks like there is actually a good chance Jackson comes back with plenty of time left to regain some ground at the end of the year.

 

What do you think? Was Bullock fouled? How responsible was Tobias for the threes?

Opponent Scouting: Chicago Bulls. (15-27)

Tonight at 8:00pm EST the Pistons will be in Chicago to play against the Bulls. The Pistons are on two days of rest after beating the Nets, as are the Bulls after beating the Knicks.

 

The Them:

The Bulls were the laughing stock of the league for the early part of the season, and despite their recent surge you can still see how bad they were (and that they still are bad, just less so) in their current standings. They still sport the second worst offensive efficiency in the NBA at 101.1 points per 100 possessions, but don't worry, they make up for that with the 24th ranked defense by allowing 107.9 points per 100 possessions, which combines for the second worst net rating at -6.8 points per 100 possessions.

That said, this is not the same team that started the season looking like they were a Robin Lopez trade away from being a Hinkie Sixers team. They are 12 and 8 over their last 20 which included a 7 game win streak. Lauri Markkanen looks like a keeper as a legit 7 footer who can really shoot. Justin Holiday is not all that good but he can shoot threes. Kris Dunn has found his way a bit after a terrible rookie season, he has continued to progress towards being an awesome defender and while he still struggles with some things on offense he has found a sort of base competency that was not there last year. Robin Lopez is still a good defender and rebounder who just makes your team better. Denzel Valentine joins Dunn in having a bounce back year after a terrible rookie year, he doesn't do a whole lot other than shoot threes but he can really shoot them. Nikola Mirotic has been on fire, David Nwaba is a awesome defender, Jerian Grant is not very good but he is servicable, Bobby Portis has been alright. The Bulls team that the Pistons will face is even more different since Zach Lavine is expected to make his Bulls debut after tearing his ACL against the Pistons last year. I doubt he will play a lot of minutes but still.

This team is still not very good, but they are not too shabby and if the Pistons play poorly and/or without injury they could be in for a real fight. If Lavine looks good fairly quickly then the Bulls could suddenly have a good outlook going forwards, they may win too many games and hurt their draft pick but if they kept somewhat on their recent trend they may suddenly look to have a nice grouping of young talent and Hoidberg may actually be able to coach in the NBA.

 

Matchups to watch:

  • Drummond vs. Lopez: Lopez is the sort of strong and disciplined player that has always given Drummond trouble, but Drummond is an improved player this year. Drummond's new-found passing abilities should help to give Lopez trouble, as the Dribble hand-offs will pull Lopez out from his comfort zone in the paint, but Drummond will still have to work in this one.

  • Pistons vs. Markkanen: This dude is legit. He looks very much like a 20 year old rookie when he tries to defend and create his own shot, but he can knock down open shots like crazy and when he puts together coherent possessions as a creator and defender you see the potential. Regardless, given Tobias Harris' penchant for falling behind shooters this worries me a bit. On the plus side Markkanen will have to guard Harris on the other end.

  • Dwight Buycks vs. Staying hungry: Congrats to Dwight Buycks! Seriously, he has received a full NBA contract which is great for him. It will be important for him to continue to play on both ends as though he is still fighting for his very NBA life though, because given his lack of size if his effort and tenacity drops by much he will be a much less effective player.

  • Pistons vs. Defensive effort and execution: The Pistons had a great defensive game against a bad offensive team in the Nets, but they have a tendency to not replicate those defensive performances. The Bulls are a bad offensive team and if the Pistons play with the crispness they did against the Nets then they should have a chokehold on this game, if not though...

 

So in conclusion...

 

Wink knowingly at your friends if:

  • The Bulls can't score at all.

  • Drummond's more complete game helps him over the bizarre speed bump that has been Robin Lopez.

  • Tobias Harris continues to play at a really high level.

 

Run for the hills if:

  • Markkanen is getting open looks from deep.

  • Lopez is going to be a thorn in Drummond's side forever.

  • Zach Lavine looks really good and out for revenge against the Pistons.

 

Opportunities for me to look stupid:

  • Tobias Harris scores a lot of points, then they put Nwaba on him and that stops very quickly.

  • With Nwaba the Bulls have a chance defensively, but with him they can't score at all.

  • Zach Lavine has at least one play where people be like “Dayum.”

  • Pistons put forth another good defensive effort for a comfortable win.

  • Pistons 105 – Bulls 90.

 

What do you think? Can the Pistons perform on defense? Can Tobias keep track of Markkanen.

Game Recap/Notes: Game #40. Pistons 114 - Nets 80.

Excellent win for the Pistons. The Nets are obviously not good, but it doesn't matter who you are playing, when you win in that fashion it is super impressive. The Pistons played well offensively, but the main place they really got the job done was on the defensive end of the floor, the Nets are not a good offensive team but they never really had any chance. Just a great win for the Pistons.

 

Box score.

 

Ish Smith:

Apparently playing on a hurt foot, Smith was not overly impactful in his 24 minutes of play but it was largely because he didn't have to be. Tobias Harris took most ball handling duties (more on this later) and Dwight Buycks was more than capable of letting him rest which amounted to Ish playing a fairly passive role that saw him score 8 points on 8 shots with 5 assists without a turnover. His best contributions were probably defensively tonight, where he largely was tasked with guarding Spencer Dinwiddie and he did a great job. Dinwiddie isn't as good as his recent play, but he is a real player and guys with size like him often give Ish trouble. While Ish had help in this regard from teammates (especially Drummond) but he did a really nice job.

 

Avery Bradley:

His jumper seems to be a bit better but it still wasn't a effective night scoring the ball fro Bradley who had 13 points on 16 shots, he did redeem himself offensively by getting 5 assists with just 1 turnover though, and although he didn't really have anyone to specifically hound on the depleted Nets, he certainly was a cog in the Pistons dominant defensive performance. The assist total is indicative of that even though Bradley missed a too many shots, he was playing the way you want him to offensively. I talked about this in a quick tweet thread yesterday, but Bradley is still an effective offensive player, but when looking at that shot chart it is almost comically clear that the long twos are plaguing his game. He was more willing to attack into the paint tonight and it created problems for the Nets. He still needs to start hitting more shots, whether that means taking better shots, less shots, or just hitting more of them, but tonight was still a decent night for Bradley.

 

Reggie Bullock:

A happily quiet night for Bradley. Who finished with 7 points on 6 shots with 4 rebounds in 28 minutes. He was mostly fully content to drag a defender out of the paint and watch Tobias Harris and Andre Drummond score over and over which is fine with everyone involved. Bullock also joined in on the very good defensive outing.

 

Tobias Harris:

22 points on 14 equivalents with 4 rebounds and an assist in just 26 minutes of play along with some of the better defensive play he has had this year is an excellent night. He got off to a quick start and was instrumental in putting the Nets away early. This is especially impressive considering that the Nets are not a terrible defensive team, and that his primary defender in Rondae Hollis-Jefferson is legit as well.

Here is the bigger picture though, it is officially looking like Tobias Harris may well have made the proverbial leap this year. We are just about to be half way through the year and he is still on pace for the greatest three point season in Piston history, meanwhile he looks way more comfortable as a actual ball handler. He went through a stretch where he noticeably struggled as he made the adjustment to defenses treating him as a three point threat. Early in the year he feasted on teams not guarding him on the perimeter as he rained death from deep, after a bit teams stuck closer to him and he was forced to start putting the ball on the floor more and attacking off of pump fakes and it took some adjusting. But he is starting to make the correct basic decisions as a ball handler that he may actually be able to qualify as a legit first option which has long eluded him. If Harris keeps it up it could be a real silver lining in Jackson's injury. Harris had already taken more ball handling duties than before in his career in the motion offense, but the Pistons were rightfully hesitant to put too much on his hands, but Jackson's injury forced the switch and he has looked mostly great. Tobias Harris may be creeping up from “Nice player but not a cornerstone” to joining Drummond as a long-term centerpiece for the Pistons. He will need to continue to prove it, but he has started down the path were it is a real possibility which is exciting. Lastly, shouts to Tobias Harris, shooting and playmaking (aka handling the ball for something other than just trying to get your own shot) are both things that have plagued him his entire career and been bugs that have held him back, and he has improved noticeably in both areas.

 

Andre Drummond:

Wow. This was domination in it's purest form. 22 points on 18 equivalents, 20 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals, and 2 blocks in 31 minutes of play. In the first three quarters (Drummond didn't play at all in the last frame) the Nets did not get a single offensive rebound. Of course you should remember that the Nets do not exactly have imposing big men, but this is what you want your star to do when the opposing team is clearly outmatched.

On the other end of the floor, Drummond was just as good as he totally controlled the Nets offense. He corralled ball handlers, being largely responsible for Spencer Dinwiddie's total ineffectiveness, and snuffing out various drives to the hoop. We are also starting to really see the fruits of Drummond's labor in thinking one step ahead on defense. It took a while for offensive players to start to think about it, but Drummond's rim protection has officially begun to enter the mind of offensive players. There were a couple of different possessions tonight where a Nets player made a move towards the paint, only to see Drummond take a step towards them causing them to stop and pull up for jumpers, and this is not the first night this has happened. It is starting to be that the less brave inside finishers are avoiding Drummond altogether and even the more tenacious are needing to pull out extra tricks against him. There has started to be some talk of him for defensive player of the year, which I think is a little bit premature, but he is really becoming a force on defense.

 

Dwight Buycks:

I'm still hesitant about Buycks. He is currently sporting a true shooting percentage of 59% on the year, which is not all that likely to hold up given that in his last three G-League seasons he has put up 50%, 52.9%, and 52.5% in the same category. Simply put, it is not very often that a guy, especially a undersized guard, goes from the any lower league to the NBA and suddenly becomes a way more efficient scorer. But the eye test says that he is legit and probably in the NBA to stay. He can clearly shoot, and attacks the hoop with more zeal than someone his size has any right to. The main thing beyond that though that remains a saving grace for his staying power is that he continues to really play defense. Regardless of his ability to keep it up, he tore it up again tonight with 17 points on 12 equivalents with 3 assists in 24 minutes, he hit tough shots, got to the line, and was generally very good. On top of that, it is always fun to see a guy get his shot and make the most of it.

 

Stanley Johnson:

In his first game back from injury Johnson looked to be moving well but his game looked a bit off. In 20 minutes he didn't score, missing 3 shots from the field, with 5 rebounds and an assist. Regardless, it was nice to see him back on the floor as the Pistons will not have such ease scoring most nights without Jackson and they will need his defense.

 

Luke Kennard:

13 points on 9 shots with 6 rebounds a steal and one fast break dunk for Kennard. They better not trade him.

 

Anthony Tolliver:

Despite only 6 points in 17 minutes of play, Tolly went 2-3 from deep which was nice to see. He didn't do a whole lot else though which was fine.

 

Eric Moreland:

2 points on 2 shots with 1 rebound and 3 assists and a tied for game high (with Dwight Buycks lol) +24 on the night. So I guess that will count as a solid outing for Moreland.

 

Boban, Galloway. Ellenson:

All played some garbage time. None of them really did anything worth mentioning.

 

General:

The Pistons played a great defensive game even if the Nets are not much good offensively. If they can take care of business against Chicago and Charlotte as well it would be big. Without Jackson they will probably have a tendency to lose close games to good teams without Jackson's end-game pick and roll expertise to lean on, which makes it even more important to clean house against the teams you should beat.

Despite it all, the Pistons are nearly halfway through the season and they are on pace for just about 44 wins, tied for 6th in the conference, and very much within striking distance of 4th. Andre Drummond has unquestionably made a leap, Tobias Harris likely has as well. It isn't all going according to plan, but before you put the next fake trade into the machine to blow up the team just remember that things are not going all that poorly.

 

What do you think? Has Harris become a legit #1 option? Is Dwight Buycks really this good?