I don't know for sure what the deal was, the Hawks have struggled lately, but this was something else. Regardless of the reason, the Hawks did not bring it tonight. They played lazy defense and offense and the Pistons were firing on all cylinders. And now, with Reggie likely to make his return on Sunday, the Pistons could get it back to him at 11-10, which would be a definite success.
Holy smokes, the Hawks were lazy and had tons of holes in the defense, and Ish found every one of them. In just 28 minutes, Ish scored 11 points on 10 shots, had 13 assists against just 1 turnover, and 5 rebounds just for good measure. He was masterful in his tuning of the offense, finding KCP and Andre for many of his assists, and he pushed the pace and took full advantage of lack of rim protection, whether that be Dwight not trying or Dwight being off the floor. He also harassed Schroder on defense the entire night and even drew a couple of charges. If this was indeed the last game Ish starts for the Pistons, he has done a great job for the Pistons. Just remember, if Reggie comes back and doesn't do awesome out of the gate, don't believe the people that say they should start Ish instead.
This game was the full KCP experience. Early in the game, Kyle Korver was tasked with guarding KCP, Korver is smart and pretty strong but very slow. KCP is very fast. This yeilded loots of open looks for KCP, and he capitalized to 15 (was it 15? It might have been more) first quarter points. When he stayed within the offense and took his open looks, it went really well. When he went outside of the offense and tried to create for himself, it largely went poorly, and resulted in him needing 20 shots to get his 23 points despite going 5-8 from 3, and barely missing any in the first quarter. Once the Hawks started putting more speedy guys on him he got less open looks and started hitting them a lot less. Still was a good night for him offensively, and his first quarter outburst was almost single handedly responsible for the Pistons jumping out to an early lead.
Defensively he was another member of an excellent team outing, but individually was largely unremarkable. He had a couple of nice plays and also got beat a couple of times. On the plus side he did keep Kyle Korver from doing much of anything. Very good night for KCP, I am still kind of waiting for the other shoe to drop with his shooting as it always has in his career, but for now I'm enjoying that when he gets open looks he is hitting them and every game he keeps hitting them I get a little more confident that he has actually figured out how to shoot.
Fairly quiet night for Morris, as he had Bazemore on him for a good portion of the night so he didn't get the open looks others were, but he still ended up with 12 points on 12 shots, 4 boards, and a pair of assists. In the 3rd quarter he finally started to get some favorable matchups as the Hawks benched their staters out of the gate in the 2nd half, freeing Marcus from Bazemore. He also went 2/3 from deep, which continues his slow trend upwards from deep over the last few games which is a very good sign. Defensively his story is largely the same as KCP's, definitely played well and was a good part of the excellent team performance, but was largely unremarkable individually.
This was quite possibly the most Tobias Harris of games. Largely appeared to not be doing much through most of the game, but at the end you look and realize that he has scored 18 points on just 13 shots. He did his offensive work efficiently and effectively against various overmatched Hawks defenders. Also went 2/3 from downtown which was nice. Tobias added in 7 rebounds and a pair of blocks to make him another member of the strong defensive performance. Strong performance from Tobias.
Andre definitely outplayed Howard tonight. In just 28 minutes Andre put up 14 points on 11 equivalents (including 2-4 from the line. He split both pairs), 14 rebounds, a block, and a steal. He had it working in pretty much all areas, whether on the offensive glass, in the post, or in the pick and roll. Quite frankly, he probably should've had a 20 rebound game even with just 28 minutes but (especially early in the game) an absurd amount of rebounds went long for the other guys on the team. Defensively he held down the paint in excellent manner, and generally did a good job of keeping in front of guards while totally denying any chance for oops to Howard. Howard could well have not even been on the floor for most of the game. I also will say that I think they have found a happier balance of post up touches for Andre, he is still getting a few per game, but they are not just feeding him in the post. Which is good, give him some touches, especially against mismatches, but don't let it bog down the offense.
Played a little overtime with the blowout, and made pretty good on it. Leuer scored 16 points on just 7 equivalents, and went 4/5 from 3. He also took full advantage of the Hawks generally not trying at all, and he got 3 offensive rebounds in this one, to finish with 9 rebounds overall. The only downside for Leuer was that he turned the ball over 5 times, including 2 just bad passes which is not like him. Even with the turnovers though, it was a very good game for Leuer, and it was especially nice to see him get hot from deep as he joins Morris in a slow but steady climb in 3 point percentage the last few games.
It appears Hilliard has truthfully and totally won the backup wing minutes from Stanley Johnson, and it was not just a one off thing. Hilliard made good use of the extra time given by the blowout tonight as well, and was one of 8 Pistons players to reach double digits scoring, with 11 points on 8 shots, including 3/5 from 3, and 2 of the 3s were impressive (sort of) off the dribble types. It is still kind of hard to separate him versus garbage as opposed to actual NBA rotation guys, because when the Hawks were still trying to win he didn't really do anything of note on either end, he has still looked pretty decent, and I made ap oint to watch his defense particularly closely in the 2nd half and although he is certainly never going to be a stopper, he does appear to at least have a fairly basic grasp of the general defensive scheme, which is a great improvement on last year.
Beno pretty much just did Beno stuff. He hit a couple of midrange pullups, attacked the hoop when Howard was out and the Hawks had no rim protection, and finished with a hyper efficient 11 points on 6 shots to go along with 3 assists. It is possible that this is the last we see of Beno for quite a while, and if so, he has done a wonderful job as the backup and I feel confident against potential boo boos and foul trouble with the point guards the rest of the year knowing that he is on the bench ready to step in. I also would not be surprised if in a few weeks (after Reggie is proven to be 100% again) Beno's name starts coming up in some trade conversations.
2 points gained from one trip to the line, didn't officially attempt a shot. Didn't have a rebound, committed a turnover, and 4 FOULS IN JUST 15 MINUTES!!! Do you know how hard it is to do that? Once again, it has a lot to do with Leuer playing well/me wanting Stanley to get minutes, but I'm 100% on the cut Baynes from the rotation movement at this point. He has not played that well on his own, and Leuer has been awesome.
All 3 played 3 minutes of garbage time at the end of the game. Boban hit a shot and threw a nice pass (which didn't result in a assist), Gbinije missed 3 shots, Stanley missed his only shot but had 2 boards and 2 assists and was clearly looking to pass whenever he had the ball, and FWIW he passed it pretty well. In the end though, nothing really of note here.
So what about Stanley?
This could probably get its own post but whatever. SVG said to the media the other day that he wants Stanley to become a better practice player and work harder outside of games. SVG said very emphatically that Stanley is a great competitor who plays harder than anyone on the court, he just needs that intensity in practice too. My guess would be that Stanley hasn't exactly been slacking in a huge way or anything, and that this is mostly just SVG trying his best to push the right buttons to make sure that Stanley becomes the best player he can, and not so much of a “Stanley is being lazy and a bad teammate” situation. SVG mentioned this past offseason that he thought Stanley had tried to skip forward to being a star a little too fast as well, so it is not a new thing with Stanley. That said, this is a bit of a dangerous time for Stanley, because SVG is a hard ass coach. If Stanley responds the way that SVG wants him too, he should come out the other side a better player and teammate. But SVG does not make idle threats, if Stanley doesn't start busting his butt in practice, SVG will keep him parked on the bench, for better or worse. My thoughts on the matter remain that they should freaking play him unless there is a huge issue with his effort. My hope is that SVG is just trying to push the right buttons, in which case I have a lot of faith in him because he has pushed the right buttons with most of the guys on this team. My fear is that Stanley has somehow just managed to get onto SVG's bad side and SVG is now being a stubborn hardass just to be a stubborn hardass, which would not be unlike SVG. Either way, I would say give it a couple of weeks to play out. If Stanley is still getting DNPs a month form now, its time to be very worried, but if he is back to playing regular minutes in a week then it is fine.
I did my best to temper my praise for this game, because I truthfully think that it had a lot to do with the Hawks just deciding to not really play. The Pistons were rolling for sure, but the Hawks were awful. The other truth is that this road trip is not as impressive as it looks, the Hornets were on their 4th game in 5 nights, and the Hawks laid an absolute egg. That said, without Reggie the Pistons are in no place to complain about how a win comes, and if it took some luck to get it back to Reggie at a game over .500 then that is fine with me.
What do you think? Will Stanley get out of the dog house? Should the Pistons trade Beno or Baynes? Will KCP avoid the slumps that have hurt him before?