Game Recap/Notes: Pistons 111 - Knicks 107. (2-1)

Well, given that the Knicks probably suck real bad it would've been nice to not have to work quite so much, but given that the Pistons were traveling on the second night of a back to back, as well as the third game in four nights and the Knicks were rested, you just kind of take the win and go home. And in the end, that's what the Pistons did. Solid start to the season.

 

Box score.

 

Reggie Jackson:

Jackson kept up the theme from the first two games with really encouraging and effective play. Other than one play where he pulled up for a three in transition for some reason, he picked his spots pretty well for his shots, he played the role of facilitator very well on his way to 7 assists without a turnover (he now has 20 assists against just 5 turnovers on the year btw) and even though it wasn't volume scoring he had a couple spurts and was the man to ice the game with free throws down the stretch to finish with 16 points on 15 equivalents. On top of it all, he continues to look like his old self driving into the paint and throwing up those goofy floater/hooks over people and generally looks quick. He is still working to get all the way back in shape and whatnot, but I am now officially believing that he was in fact hurt all of last year and is mostly healthy now.

The thing that I am less willing to believe totally, but also very excited about the possibility is that through three games, Reggie Jackson has really committed on the defensive end of the floor. There has really never been a point in Reggie Jackson's career where he has been a consistently good defender. I admittedly didn't watch a lot of his games when he played in OKC, and when I did I wasn't really focusing on his individual defense, but in all three games so far he has been better defensively on a possession by possession basis than I have ever seen him.

It is still early, and it is easy to do all the right things when you are trying to get off to a good start so it could easily change, but it is starting to look like Reggie Jackson actually is going to come out of the year from hell a better player than he entered it. It may well be that he heard all the criticisms, took a hard look at himself in the mirror, and realized he had to pass more and give consistent effort on defense. Stan Van Gundy essentially bet the entire short term future of the franchise on Reggie Jackson coming back better than before, and it is looking like the correct decision so far. Great game for Reggie.

Also worth noting. Reggie Jackson was second among all players on both teams in +/- with a +14 in 26 minutes, and has been tied for first or second on the team in +/- in all three games so far, and it matches the eye test. Reggie Jackson has been very good so far.

 

Avery Bradley:

Bit of a rough night for Bradley after a great game against Washington. Bradley scored just 5 points on 8 shots with 5 boards and 3 assists. He did play his usual defense and came up with 2 steals, but he took too many fouls and only played 22 minutes. Combine that with that the Knicks don't really have any guards that are overly threatening in the first place, and this was a game of minimal impact for Bradley. One thing that should be noted is that him and Andre continue to show great chemistry, as Andre threw a couple perfect passes to a cutting Bradley, unfortunately the Knicks snuffed out and blocked both layups.

 

Stanley Johnson:

The Pistons decided to get a little bit freaky early in the game and have Stanley guard Porzingis, and while I honestly respect SVG for having the balls to do that, I think Porzingis is just too good to give up that much size. In the end though we didn't really get to find out as Stanley was called for a couple of questionable fouls and had to be pulled early. Despite the early foul trouble Stanley played 29 minutes on the night. In the end he played his usual defense even if he didn't record any stats on that end, he made some really great plays and his versatility is almost comical. But the question all year will be: Did he hit enough shots to not be a zero on offense? Tonight was decidedly “yes.” as he scored 9 points on 8 equivalents which included a couple of post up looks which was new for him. He also had 8 rebounds and 2 assists on his way to a really nice performance for Stanley.

 

TOBIAS-MOTHER-FUCKING-HARRIS:

This ended up being Tobias' night, and this was as complete a scoring game as Tobias has had in a Pistons uniform. The knock on Harris has always been that for as talented a scorer he is, he has a tendency to disappear in big moments, especially late in games, too much for him to be a true number 1 option. Take the game against Charlotte for instance, where he scored a billion points in the first quarter and then just kind of faded the rest of the game. Tonight was no such night for Tobias, who finished with 31 points on just 25 equivalents with 6 boards and an assist in 38 minutes. The Pistons simplified their offense down the stretch and decided to simply have their best two scorers take the ball and let them do their thing, running pick and rolls with Tobias and Jackson a bunch in the final moments of the game, and Tobias hit some super clutch shots. Also, even though he only ended up shooting 3 of 9 from deep, he seems to be quicker and more confident letting the long ball go.

In the end, the entire arsenal was on display for Tobias. As Reggie Jackson says in the advertisement (which I actually like quite a bit) of Tobias: “How do you want it?” Because he gave it to the Knicks in every which way, and he is off to a great start to the season.

One note, is that I really liked the way SVG simplified the offense in general in the second half and I hope it becomes more of a theme. Simply put, Reggie and Tobias are, by far, the best scorers and ball handlers on the team. You can't have them do it every possession, but I want those two to have the ball way more often than not, and the Pistons offense seems to do better when they cut out some of the crap and just let their best players play.

 

ANDRE-MUTHA-FUKIN-DRUMMOND:

You know the rules. Andre went 3 for 3 at the line and remains perfect for the season at the charity stripe. He gets the honors.

Other than that though, get rid of those honors because I kind of think he played like crap honestly. I guess this was his best game this year because he was forced to sit for so much of the first two, and you can't help anyone if you are on the bench. But despite his 38 minutes tonight, I felt like he played his worst ball in the time when he was on the floor. His 21 points on 12 equivalents is a really impressive mark, but most of those points were curtesy of the Knicks deciding that they didn't need to try and have anyone guarding him. And despite his 12 rebounds, he did clean the defensive glass very well in this game. Enes Kanter absolutely gave it to him on the glass early in the game, and even Kyle O'Quinn got in on the action in the second half. On top of that, Andre was just generally not nearly as active defensively as the first two games, even straying into simply laziness on several possessions. If this were against a team that wasn't as defensively challenged as the Knicks are he may have not even reached 10 points, I was unimpressed by him most of the night. HOWEVA, it should be noted that he made a downright brilliant defensive play to block Kristaps Porzingis in the closing moments of the game, so he has that going for him.

 

Ish Smith:

I had predicted in my preview that Ish would have a big game to bounce back from a bad one in Washington, and while that didn't exactly happen he did play fine. Then entire bench mob really struggled in the first half, and while Ish was definitely a part of it, it wasn't really his fault. He ended the night with 9 points on 9 shots with 3 assists against 1 turnover. I once again would implore him to be a little less eager to try and score the ball, as he took a couple of shots in this game that were not good ones, but in the end that is kind of part of what you get with Ish. He has a real “F-U” competitive streak to him, and it is part of what makes him a good player, the downside is that he sometimes tries to do too much. In the end it wasn't a very good game for Ish, but it was a fine one.

 

Anthony Tolliver:

We missed you Tolly. In 20 minutes Tolly scored 9 points on 8 shots, going 3 of 7 from deep, with 4 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1 HUGE block. I just want to say, that those random, out of nowhere, super clutch blocks of his were sorely missed last year. I think he has a Joel Anthony streak in him where he just has the right combination of hops and instincts that even though he doesn't look like he is a guy who would block many shots, he still does.

In the end Tolly not only gave a real spark to the offense, but he essentially put the clamps on Kristaps Porzingis, and while I'm a bit skeptical of how much Tolly actually had to do with it and how much of it was just that Porzingis was bound to miss a few shots at some point, Tolly definitely played him hard. Tolly also went an absurd +21 in 20 minutes in a game that the Pistons won by four points. I like Ellenson a lot, but I hope that Tolly is getting the minutes at the backup 4 spot now because he is really good.

 

Jon Leuer:

Mostly unremarkable night for Leuer, who scored 9 points on 3 shots with 2 rebounds and 2 assists in 19 minutes. He did have a super dope assist to Andre for a dunk and had a couple nice backdoor cuts. Kind of a push in the end though. He had some struggles defensively, but wasn't too bad.

 

Luke Kennard:

Kennard got 17 minutes with Galloway sidelined with injury and he continued to look pretty good and like he belonged. Despite only hitting one of his 4 shots for 2 points, he held up fine on defense and the Knicks clearly respect his stroke from deep as they stuck with him and bit hard on his pump fakes. I don't know if he will be able to stay in the rotation when Galloway gets back (which I think will probably actually be their next game) and Bullock's five game suspension is over, but he might be able to. Dude can play.

 

Boban Marjanovic:

Only played 4 minutes and was bad. Scored 2 points on 3 shots, and O'Quinn roasted him on the other end. SVG played Leuer and Andre at center the rest of the game.

 

Henry Ellenson:

Also only played 4 minutes, didn't do anything but go -6.

 

General:

All in all the Pistons are off to a very encouraging start, 2-1 while playing their first three games in four nights and traveling between each one is not too shabby. On top of that, Andre is hitting free throws, Reggie looks healthy, and the Tobias all-star campaign has officially started. I really like that SVG is experimenting with different lineups and looks, and that he is starting to use the Jackson/Harris pick and roll a bit more (something that had previously been oddly absent in the offense) because it has been real effective. There is a lot of season to go, but this is a very nice start for the Pistons.

 

What do you think? Should they simplify the offense? Do you think I should give Andre more credit?