Game Recap/Notes: Game #19. Pistons 118 - Celtics 108. (13-6)

Wow. What a game, what a great win. It was a great game because there wasn't really anything all that fluky that favored either side. Both teams shot crazy well from deep, there was not a huge disparity in crappy foul calls (or non-calls) and both teams played super hard all the way through. Super fun game, and FWIW the Pistons and Celtics have actually played a bunch of awesome games the last two years so it shouldn't be that surprising.

 

First things first:

A little appreciation bit for Marcus Morris and Aron Baynes. Neither of them were exactly critical members of the Pistons and were only here for two years and the Pistons are a better team now than they were. But both guys were important in starting to build a better culture in Detroit to recover from the franchise being one of the most comically terrible ones in basketball.

Within that, I'd like to just give a shoutout to Celtics fans. They are a big fan base so there are plenty of idiots in their ranks, but since they swapped players this offseason I've had a bunch of interactions with Celtics people and by and large they have been great. On with the recap.

 

Box score.

 

Reggie Jackson:

Not a great game, but a very good one for Jackson, who continues to do exactly what the Pistons need him to do. He spends most of the game perfectly content to play the role of game manager and facilitator and just sort of picking his spots for an occasional shot, and then at the end he got much more involved in the game and helped to ice it. There was one possession in particular down the stretch where I really didn't like the way he played it, but mostly he did well. When you milk the clock that far down (which is what you want to do) then you are going to end up taking some real tough shots so you live with it.

In the end Jackson finished with a super tidy 20 points on 12 equivalents with 7 assists and just 1 turnover in 28 minutes. He didn't stand out much as he was largely stashed on various wing players defensively, but the fact that he didn't stand out says a lot about the way he continues to play on that end. Jaylen Brown (who he usually was stashed against) has not been a slouch by any stretch this year and he had a quiet night. It wasn't the sort of triumphant finish that say, the Atlanta or Minnesota games were, but this was an excellent night for Jackson.

One thing in particular I like that he has started to do more of defensively is the way he has defended inbounds passes. When his guy is passing he has gotten more daring in going out to try and cut off passing lanes and he has shown a nice combination of preparation and general basketball IQ in sniffing out the occasional play. When he is able to read a play and see it coming his length can really cause issues, there was one in particular tonight where the Celtics ended up having to bomb it way out to Aron Baynes because Jackson sniffed out the intended action.

 

Avery Bradley:

In what was certainly an emotional night for Avery Bradley returning to Boston for the first time, he had himself a very solid game if not particularly flashy. Offensively he was largely held in check on his way to 13 points on 15 equivalents with 5 assists against just 2 turnovers in 37 minutes. Defensively he didn't put up great numbers with a pair of steals, but his defense of Kyrie Irving was still the super effective type that is exactly what you want from him. Kyrie was forced into tough shots all night and never really got into a rhythm as Bradley (and others) constantly harassed him and played physical with him. This may not have been the dominating defensive performance that Bradley is capable of, but it was still excellent. Also good for Bradley to get a win against them.

 

Stanley Johnson:

There was a disconnect between the eye test and numbers offensively for Stanley tonight. He finished with just 7 points on 11 shots with a pair of assists in 34 minutes, but he didn't take any shots I wasn't comfortable with and a couple of them rimmed out. He continues to look more aggressive and he made a couple of really nice plays going to the hoop. They have also noticeably let him begin to spread his wings a bit more when he is playing with bench guys and that showed tonight. You'd like more shots to fall of course, but this was not a bad offensive game for Johnson.

Defensively he joins Bradley in that he didn't have the sort of super flashy and dominating defensive game he is capable of, but it was still very good. He had several plays where he got back in transition and stopped otherwise easy fast break opportunities, he was in passing lanes, and generally being a wrench in the Celtic's offensive gears.

In the end it was a pretty solid game for Stanley, but not a great one due to not enough shots falling. One thing to really note is that he has quietly become an excellent transition defender, whether chase down blocks or being back and ready to contest at the hoop, when he is on the floor opposing teams do not get many freebies in transition which was already a strength of this Pistons team.

 

Tobias Harris:

Wow. This was impressive from Harris. I was actually surprised by the lack of effectiveness of the Celtics defense here despite picking Harris to have a big game in my preview. Jaylen Brown is and has been a very good defender all year and he was largely the guy responsible for Harris tonight and Tobias straight up dusted him several times, and the Celtics didn't seem to have much interest in sending help against Harris to try and force him to make good passes to beat them (which is obviously something he really struggles with) which also surprised me. Even if the Celtics kind of messed up with it, it was still hugely impressive for Tobias to drop 31 points on just 18 equivalents with 8 rebounds in 35 minutes against the best defensive team in the NBA. There were some not so good defensive moments for him, but he largely managed to stay out of trouble on that end.

Also worth noting, he went 5 of 6 from deep. I was worried that the last stretch was perhaps the start of some bad regression for Harris, and then he does this lol. Dude is simply playing with great confidence and his jumper is way improved beyond that. Excellent game from Tobias, probably his best of the year.

 

ANDRE-MOTHER-FUCKING-DRUMMOND:

Lol there was never any doubt about who was getting the honors for this one. Holy crap this was an incredible outing for Drummond, just look at this freaking stat-line: 26 points on 16 equivalents (6-8 from the line!!!), 22 rebounds, 6 assists (against 3 turnovers), 4 steals, and +13 in 40 minutes of work. Andre Drummond was the best player on the floor from start to finish and it honestly wasn't particularly close even. The Celtics have had trouble with him for years now and ho boy did he smell blood in the water tonight. He cleaned the defensive glass like crazy, got inside, and even had a couple nice post moves on Horford. Defensively he was everywhere on the perimeter, he straight up boinked the ball from Kyrie once, and generally was an absolute pest all night. Like the Minnesota game, not every team plays such a perimeter oriented big as the Celtics do, but you cannot ask for anything else from Drummond when he has a clear mis-match. Drummond will be able to skip leg workouts for a bit after carrying the Pistons to this win.

Also, say it with me now: “IS HE EVEN ELITE THO??????”

 

Ish Smith:

This was actually a pretty rough game for Ish and therefore the bench. They cracked a bit later in the game and he also got a couple of jumpers to fall on his way to finishing with 8 points on 9 equivalents with 3 assists in 20 minutes, but the Celtics did a good job of keeping him in the half-court and ducking under every single screen to keep him from the paint. On the other end Ish stood no chance of guarding Kyrie, which is understandable but still. He managed to pull out a decent night with a couple nice plays in the second half but this was not a great game for him, give credit to the Celtics for knowing exactly what to do to him to keep him in check even if they failed a couple times at executing.

 

Luke Kennard:

This will be the last time I mention this, but he appears to have firmly won a spot in the rotation which was not something I saw coming before the season. And what surprises me even more is that he has looked really solid in that spot in the rotation. Even though his final line wasn't anything remarkable with 7 points on 8 shots with 1 rebound in 17 minutes, Kennard got his buckets with the bench crew and was really the only thing that kept them afloat during a rough stretch in the first half. I don't know exactly where his shot percentages will end up, but he really bends defenses with his shooting and he has a silky smooth shot. Once again, I'm not sure how effective he will actually end up being when the season is over, but I really like this guy's game.

As a side note here, I would like to take this time to re-iterate something I said right after the Pistons drafted Kennard. A lot of people wanted Mitchell, and Mitchell has started to play well as of late, but I hope people can not focus on Mitchell too much and focus on Kennard instead. This kid looks like he can really play and may well be exactly what the doctor ordered for this Pistons team.

 

Anthony Tolliver:

Tolly had a quiet night with 4 points on 4 equivalents, 4 rebounds, and a pair of assists in 15 minutes of play. He did his normal thing of providing spacing and effort but didn't have a huge impact on the game in the end, he just wasn't overly involved most of the time. Still a fine game, just not really remarkable.

 

Eric Moreland:

This was on pace to be a really rough game for Moreland who struggled mightily. But then he had a flurry of effort that resulted in a couple of extra possessions for the Pistons that really boosted them in the second half and saved himself. I continue to be (based on what most people seem to think at least) one of the few people who is really looking forward to the return of Jon Leuer, but as a 3rd big Moreland is perfectly acceptable. His manic effort gets him into trouble and he is a bit under-sized, but it pays off in big ways at times and he has some basic skills with dribble hand-offs and whatnot and especially with Drummond playing like he has been this year there isn't a huge need for heavy minutes from the backup center spot regardless.

 

Langston Galloway:

Played just 5 minutes. Hit one shot, missed two others, didn't really do anything. I'm not sure why he played so little, I think that SVG cut him out of the rotation in the second half and chose to keep Kennard in over him which is fine.

 

General:

I mean, what else is there to say? The Pistons franchise player was the best player on the floor, their leading scorer dropped 30, their franchise point guard played perfect floor general, their defensive ace held the opposing super-star point guard in check, and the Pistons as the second best team in the East (as of now) beat the top team in the East (as of now). That honestly says most of what you need to know. The Pistons came out and played one of the, if not just the, best games they have all season and beat a very good team. I will admit that I personally am especially thrilled to see Drummond playing so well and getting the recognition he is given how hard I went to bat for him all of last year and this offseason, but also just for him as a person. It cannot be overstated how incredible his improvement at the line has been, like it is just totally absurd and I can still say that I have never been as happy for a player as I am for Drummond right now other than situations that involve winning a chip. He went to the line and hit a pair late in the game and shushed the crowd for goodness sake! Anyways, great win for the Pistons.

 

I LOVE BASKETBALL!