Rough opener to the non-Jackson stretch. Remember that the Magic are a better team than their record with Gordan and Fournier back, they are probably in too big of a hole to get back into the playoff mix but don't be surprised if they play above .500 ball the rest of the season. The biggest problem was the defense more than anything.
Smith played a good game in his first start even if it wasn't nearly as inspiring as the announcers seemed to think. 18 points on 18 shots with 5 assists against 1 turnover is a nice performance, and there was of course the stretch to close the first half where he went on an absolute tear of transition terror to get the Pistons in the game. That said, this all still comes with the caveat that the motion offense is definitely less effective with Smith on the floor and there were too many possessions that ended with someone puking up a contested midrange shot (generally Smith or Harris) which is pretty much a direct result of Ish being on the floor. That said, it is a reality of having Ish Smith on the floor so get used to it, and Ish did enough other places to make up for it tonight although it is probably not ideal to have him lead all players (on both teams) in shot attempts for a night.
Sometimes young guys have growing pains, and oh baby did Kennard have some growing pains in this one. He finished with 8 points on 8 shots with 4 turnovers in 20 minutes, but those 4 turnovers were of the very bad variety and I thought he had more. He finished with a game low -22 in his 20 minutes and was generally terrible. The only redeeming factor he had is that he managed to can 2 of his 4 long balls. Still, very bad night for Kennard, one that you live with as a result of playing a young guy but still bad.
Bullock continues to chug along as the perfect 5th option. 13 points on 7 shots with 3 assists in 37 minutes of play. He spread the floor, hit threes, and moved the ball. The problem of course is that he is not really capable of doing anything beyond this, and without Jackson the Pistons could use some more creation, but for Bullock's part he did his job.
It was not all that pretty, but Harris still ended up getting 21 points on 19 equivalents with 3 rebounds and a pair of assists in 36 minutes of play. Offensively Harris largely did what will be needed of him, and some nights it will be uglier than this. Really forcing the issue is not really in Tobias' basketball DNA and the Pistons have (rightfully) steered him even further away from those tendencies in his time in Detroit. But without Jackson (and especially till Bradley comes back) there really isn't any other choice. You are going to give Harris close to 20 attempts per night and you hope he hits enough of them to bail you out.
Lets start this off with something. I didn't bother to say it after every section but pretty much everyone played bad to terrible defense in this game. Andre Drummond on the other hand was really the only one who really played well on that end. It is always tough to judge defense on a single viewing but he was really on his game which was the only thing that kept this from being a total blowout given how comically leaky the perimeter defense was. The best illustration for how bad the defense as a whole was is that Bismack Biyombo scored 12 points (a season high), Biyombo does not create offense, the only way he scores is if his guy is drawn away to give him a wide open look for a dunk or floater, and he got 12 points.
Beyond that though, Drummond actually did just play a really nice game. 17 points on 18 equivalents and 18 rebounds (9 offensive), 5 assists, 1 steal, and 3 blocks in 38 minutes of play. The 18 equivalents do reflect that there were probably 2 possessions where he got a little too zealous in attempts to try and take it to the hoop but that isn't the biggest sin. As stated before, I thought he played an excellent defensive game and overall Drummond was the only thing that really kept this game even remotely competitive for most of the night.
So I largely did not say a lot of nice things about the starters, but they mostly did their jobs. The bench on the other hand totally wet the bed. Tolly was not really any different. 1 point on 3 equivalents in 24 minutes with 2 rebounds isn't going to cut it.
Really the only bench guy who made a decent showing of himself. Johnson had 8 points on 10 equivalents with a pair of assists in 24 minutes of play with his normal high level of defense. He continues to look like a good option for ball handling in the half court, two of his misses drew enough defense to give Drummond easy put backs, and he continues to look more confident with the bench mob.
Both played like a minute in garbage time. Didn't do anything.
I'm not super worried from this game. The starters did their job more or less as they scrapped their way to a respectable performance, Kennard played probably his worst game of the year so he will not be that bad again. With the bench I was a little disappointed by the lack of motion at times as they were far too willing to have guys go iso. When it is Tobias Harris (as it was several times) that is fine I guess, but other guys shouldn't. There is enough shooting and passing with the new bench crew to create some offense with a lot of motion but they did not do it tonight.
That said, the problem was really the defense. With Ish Smith starting defense becomes way more important because you are only getting out in transition off of stops. If you can get several stops in a row then Ish can quickly become a demon on the floor (which happened for a stretch in this game) but if you are taking it out he is much less effective.
What do you think? Can the bench up their game from this? Why did they go away from motion?