Frustrating the way it ended, and the Pistons are not really looking for moral victories, but as far as losses go it could be a lot worse than this. I will talk about a lot of silver linings throughout, but the main thing to remember is that the Wizards are 100% legit. With Hayward out in Boston they very likely are the 2nd best team in the East at the end of the day, and they have a lot of experience with each other.
In the end the numbers don't end up looking that great, but that is a bit of an inaccurate story for Jackson's night. 21 points on 22 equivalents with 4 rebounds, 6 assists (against 4 turnovers) and 5 (!!) steals in 32 minutes. I poo-poo +/- for individual games but that he went +8 on the night, one of just 3 Pistons who were positive, is probably the most telling stat. Reggie is still shaking off the rust of not playing a lot of basketball this past offseason, but he has looked great in the first two games.
First off the defense. The five steals are a little misleading since like two or three where tipped by others and just kind happened to end up with him (I think) but tonight was probably the best defensive performance I have seen out of Reggie in a Piston uniform. In my preview I guessed that the Pistons would put Bradley and Johnson on Wall and Beal to let Reggie hide on the offensively challenged Kelly Oubre, but the Pistons did no such thing and Jackson spent the vast majority of his night guarding John Wall. Wall got him several times and had a pretty good game when all was said and done, but that is because John Wall is stupid good, Jackson played him very tough, forced him into turnovers, and made him work for almost every bucket he got. Jackson started to pick up Wall out beyond the three point line and I thought to myself “Reggie wtf are you doing he ain't gonna shoot it there anyways and you'll just get blown by” but Jackson actually used that pressure to great effect several times and didn't get beaten badly out of it at all. If this is truthfully the start of Jackson really re-committing himself to playing defense it would be HUGE.
Offensively he turned the ball over a bit much, but he mostly played the same way as he did in the first game against Charlotte. He played in control, picked an occasional spot, got others involved, and generally played the role of “game manager” which was great to see. Then in the 4th quarter, Andre fouled out and the Pistons were down by double digets, and Reggie decided try and open up the throttle a bit. With the help of some lazy Wizard turnovers, he lead the comeback with a flurry of drives to the hoop and three pointers. He came up short on a couple too many shots, (FWIW the one Wall blocked was just a brilliant play by Wall. Nothing Jackson could've really done differently) which is largely a result of the rust I'd say, but he showed the same sort of fight and energy to make plays in the clutch that so endured him to Pistons fans once upon a time.
The one real complaint I have is actually that I think he passed it a little bit too much down the very stretch of the game. It may be that he started to run out of gas, which would be understandable as he re-entered with 10+ minutes left in the 4th which was probably the longest stretch of NBA ball he's played in well over a year (not to mention that it was a super active time period for him) but there were like two times where he should've done it himself I think. The one that stands out the most is that he had Gortat switched onto him and he was on the perimeter and ready to go, and then as he made his move he passed to cutting Leuer. Maybe be a wee bit more selfish there.
Overall it was a really great game from Reggie. If we continue to operate under the assumption that he is shaking off the rust and/or playing himself into shape for the first month or so of the season, then it is hard to ask for much more than he has given through two games. It will take more time, but I'm getting more optimistic that Reggie is back.
AVERY BRADLEY IS BUILT FOR WAR. His stat-line of 18 points on 15 equivalents with 2 boards, 2 assists, and 2 steals is solid, but his play down the stretch is why he got the honors tonight. After spending most of the night off ball on Beal, Stan Van Gundy unleashed the full force of Avery Bradley onto John Wall in the final minutes of the game and Avery Bradley damn near won the Pistons the game (and if the refs hadn't blatantly blown some calls he probably should've). John Wall is stupid good, probably the second best player in the Eastern conference at this point and one of the fastest ball handlers ever to step on a court, and Avery-Mother-Fucking-Bradley came and picked him up at half court on straight possessions, caused a turnover, and a jump ball (which he won), and even chipped in with the offense by hitting a transition three. If anyone wasn't sold on Avery Bradley, this game should've finished that nonsense off. Him (along with Jackson) nearly won this game on sheer grit.
Swapping places with his defensive stalwart counter-part tonight, Johnson got into some foul trouble in the first half and only ended up playing 23 minutes. They were a good 23 minutes however, scoring 10 points on 5 equivalents, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1 steal. A theme all year is that Stanley is going to need to hit enough shots to be worthwhile on offense, and tonight he was. Good game for Stanley after a rough offensive opener.
It should also be noted that those 4 rebounds (I think) all were big ones down the stretch with Drummond on the bench.
I wish he had gotten a few more shots up, but a very solid game from Tobias anyways. 15 points on 12 equivalents, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, and a +3 on the night. He was aggressive driving to the hole, and even though he only took (and hit) one three pointer, it was a quick pull-up look when the defender ducked under a screen. Defensively he had some issues, but it wasn't a huge issue. I wish he had done more, which is at least partially his fault, but it is hard to complain too much about his performance.
whispers: Andre Drummond is still 100% from the line on the year after hitting his only free throw on the night.
He was not assisted by the refs on either end after a great first quarter, but he also didn't do enough to help himself on either end. He had a real beef with the refs about Gortat fouling him in the post, which should've sent him to the line like 3 more times but he spent too much time complaining about said beef, and while a couple of his fouls were real ticky-tac types, if he hadn't committed a couple of very dumb fouls he wouldn't have fouled out. The real shame is that he was really playing a nice game, 9 points, 12 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1 steal (and assisted steals on a couple of Reggie's) in 26 minutes isn't too shabby. And he was very good defensively for the most part, he was alert to get his hands on a bunch of passes, and even though he didn't get any blocks he made some nice rotations to force difficult shots over him. He really was playing a nice game, and it is a shame that he fouled out.
But they went on that run the moment he left.
Don't buy any hot takes about that. The only way him leaving spurred that on is that him fouling out may have caused the Wizards to get too comfortable and get lazy. The main thing that drove the Pistons comeback was a combination of lazy Wizard passing and ball-handling with Reggie Jackson deciding to YOLO to the hoop a bunch. Andre wrecked havoc on the Wizard passing lanes when they were lazy in the first half and he certainly isn't making Reggie's drives any less threatening, and the Pistons had some real issues defending the glass and got very lucky a couple of times that the Wizards didn't capitalize on it. So yeah, don't buy any of those takes. That comeback was happening with or without Andre, and if it is Andre instead of Leuer there is a good chance the comeback is successful.
Speaking of Jon Leuer, this game is kind of the reason I poo-poo +/-, and especially for one game samples. Leuer score 10 points on 8 equivalents, had 1 rebound, and 1 block in 32 minutes of play and finished a team-high +12 because he happened to enter the game when the Wizards decided to self-implode. Leuer did actually play pretty well at some points, but he really struggled to defend the glass and the Wizards players in the fourth quarter, when the wall that was Jackson/Bradley/Johnson did break Leuer was not plugging any holes successfully other than a nice closeout block.
I do like that SVG is using him more at center, he fits better there, and this was a fine game for Leuer it just wasn't much more than that.
After the first Caucasian Splash Brother was pleasantly good in game one, the second Caucasian Splash Brother got in on game two and looked even better. With Stanley in foul trouble Kennard joined the fray for the first time as SVG went with a three guard bench look with Ish/Galloway/Kennard and the rookie played great. He started off with a couple of mid-range looks after being run off the line and I was like “that was nice but whatever”, then he got a screen that the defender went under and nailed a pullup three pointer like he was Steph Curry and I be like “damn”. He also had a couple of nice right-handed floaters as he used his handle to get into the paint. He also looked remarkably sound defensively! His final line of 11 points on 8 shots with 3 assists and 2 steals is a good indicator of his game tonight, he kind of showed that he belongs on an NBA floor.
The numbers were not terrible as he finished with 12 points on as many shots with 3 rebounds and 3 assists (against 2 turnovers) and a steal. HOWEVA, this was not a great Ish game. In the 3rd quarter the Wizards locked in defensively and gave the Pistons all kinds of trouble and Ish tried to do too much. He did get a couple of nice buckets (and blew two and-1s by missing free throws) but the simple fact is that he probably shouldn't be the guy trying to iso his way out of a bad offensive stretch. Throw in that he got lost on defense on a few possessions and his team-low -11 mostly matched up with the eye test. And it might be a little bit bold, but I think SVG may have pulled him for Jackson early because he was frustrated a bit with Ish's play. It also may have just been that SVG (correctly) decided that if the Pistons were going to come back it had to be then so throw the starters out and see what happens, but Ish certainly wasn't going to be the one to lead a comeback.
Getting some backup center minutes again as Boban was inactive (I haven't seen anything as to why exactly) and he struggled. His only statistics were 3 rebounds, 2 turnovers, and 3 fouls. I still really like his combination of energy and athleticism, but he struggled to impact this game in his 12 minutes.
Only played 12 minutes as I think he got hurt taking what should have definitely been a charge, but he played fine in those 12 minutes scoring 5 points on 3 shots. I hope he isn't going to miss any time, but at least Luke looks like he would be ready to step in for a couple games if he has too.
I am not a “Blame the refs” guy 99% of the time, especially in basketball where there are so many possessions that refs just don't decide games. But tonight was pretty rough. I'm not upset about the Pistons shooting a lot fewer free throws because there isn't anyone on the Pistons who has ever been a big foul drawer, but there were some pretty terrible miscues especially down the stretch of this game. I don't know for sure if the Pistons would've won if they were called correctly, but they might've. Once again, the Pistons could've done more to help themselves, but the refs really botched this game.
If the Pistons can win tomorrow in New York then I will be perfectly happy with the final outcome here. They played a very good team on the road and played them very tough, and Reggie Jackson started to show signs of getting the cobwebs off and being the potentially dominant scoring force he had been before last year. Avery Bradley is an absolute joy to watch play defense, and I wish Tobias had gotten a couple more shots. I also love the fact that SVG has already gotten more creative with lineups and rotations in two games this year than in his entire tenure as coach up until now.