It was a pretty frustrating game to watch for various reasons, but in the end you have to take a step back and accept that the Pistons were without their best player and the Heat had an absurd night shooting threes. A close loss is hard to be too upset about considering that.
Not a very good game for Smith tonight, who finally had the bad shooting bug catch him while also struggling to defend. He scored just 6 points on 10 shots with 4 assists in 31 minutes. In the end he mostly made the sort of plays you want him to make and he just missed a couple too many shots. It sucks but a reality of Ish Smith is that he will have nights like this, especially as a starter. The bigger issue was his defense, which was less than stellar. He struggled to guard anyone he was put against and generally failed to keep up with people on or off the ball. Dragic is a tough guard, but this just wasn't going to cut it. It was a pretty bad game for Ish, but he mostly still played the way that you want him to even if it didn't really work out.
In his first game back in over two weeks, Bradley looked like he had been out for a while as he had a pretty brutal night. 15 points on 120 equivalents doesn't really even do it justice especially with 4 assists against just 1 turnover. It was much worse than that. He pulled up for too many long twos and badly missed several very open threes. I wouldn't be all that worried, he got good looks and just looked way off which is not unexpected, but man it was painful at times. Like Smith though, other than a lack of attacking the hoop he mostly played the way you want on offense even if the ball missed the hoop. The bigger problem was defensively. I don't know exactly what the deal was, and perhaps if I went back and re-watched him more closely I would have a different opinion, but he certainly didn't seem to have much positive impact on defense. Part of that is a result of the Heat running a pretty egalitarian offense without a heavy volume ball handler for him to harass combined with that Ish Smith's size meant that Bradley couldn't take on the heaviest ball handler. (Smith is too small to switch onto bigger guys) Regardless, he just didn't make a good impact on defense, which combined with his terrible shooting night to be a nightmarish game for Bradley. Hopefully this knocks off all the rust though and he will be good to go from here.
Reggie Bullock continues to make Stan Van Gundy look brilliant and stupid at the same time. On one hand, the move to put Bullock into the starting lineup has been nothing short of brilliant as Bullock had another terrific game, scoring 17 points on just 10 shots in 35 minutes of play, but at the same time it makes it all the more confounding as to why he was totally out of the rotation before being made a starter. Regardless, Bullock was great, shooting 5-8 from deep and generally being super active. He joined everyone else in having a rough defensive outing though.
Once again, Tobias Harris largely did his job. 19 points on 16 equivalents with 6 rebounds and a pair of assists in 36 minutes of play. Harris did not hit a three (only took two) which is indicative of the way he got his points. He was not a passive observer who occasionally got an open look like he has been at times this year, he was the safety valve who got tough buckets time and time again throughout the game. Due to the fact that his points were pretty evenly spread out across the whole game it seemed like a quiet 19 points, but it was really good. He struggled defensive as well, but at the very least he joins Bullock in having done his job on offense.
Getting his first start as a Piston, Boban largely delivered. In 22 minutes of play he scored 15 points and had 9 rebounds with 3 assists and a block. He took Hassan Whiteside out of the game in the first half with foul trouble and was generally a problem for the Heat to guard. The problem was that when the Heat put Kelly Olynyk in at center Boban suddenly became a problem for the Pistons. He couldn't really keep up on the outside as Olynyk promptly hit a couple of open threes, and the Pistons apparently decided they didn't want to see if Boban could dominate Olynyk as completely as he did Whiteside on the other end which required him to be pulled from the game. That said, he outplayed Hassan Whiteside and largely took him out of the game so it is hard to complain about that.
In this particular case I think it may well have been the correct choice, but SVG continues to have a frustrating tendency to be dictated to instead of dictating. I get that Boban really struggles to guard anyone who can shoot, but Olynyk has to guard him on the other end too. When Olynyk came in the game the Heat were determined to go at Boban, and then on the other end the Pistons ignored Boban. I would've liked them to at least see if Boban could do like he did to Whiteside and get some quick fouls on Olynyk. Once again, it may well have been the right choice but it is frustrating to see it happen so often.
Kennard followed up his career night with another awesome game. 13 points on 7 shots (6-7 shooting) with a pair of assists in 24 minutes was excellent. His calm confidence to take the pullup mid rangers that the Heat were surrendering so willingly was great to see, and if that is something he can continue to do he will be a big problem for some teams. Most teams in the NBA today try and force teams to take those mid range shots, heavily analytics driven teams like the Heat totally sell out to get opponents to take them, but then if a guy like Kennard comes along who is such a good shooter that he will kill you with those shots it suddenly becomes an issue, because the defense suddenly has to stop giving up shots that it is designed to give up. Regardless of that, Kennard had a great game.
Tolly continued what has been a pretty rough few games for him. 5 points on 5 shots in 20 minutes, and he also looked a half step slow against the blazingly fast Heat offense. Just not a good game for him, and he has had a rough week or so and him getting back on track would be a big boost.
Yeah this was not a good game for him. 0 points on 2 shots with 5 rebounds in 18 minutes.
Small sample size, but two games in, Buycks looks like a nice find on a two-way contract. He scored 14 points on 12 shots with 4 assists (against just 1 turnover) in 17 minutes. He joined Kennard as being largely totally content to take the open mid range shots that the Heat so willingly gave up and he hit them. I don't know if he will finish at a high enough clip to be all that effective (or if he will ever draw a shooting foul at any point in his career) but I really like the way he attacks the hoop at times, at the very least his fearlessness in that aspect puts pressure on the defense.
On the defensive end Buycks impressed again as well. He plays very hard and has a quick mind and quick hands which combines for a pretty effective defender. We will see if his effort wains as he gets more time (and becomes a bit more comfortable) but for now at least he is doing well on that end. All in all he had a really good game and may be a really nice pickup off the garbage heap.
It is frustrating to see the Heat hit so many threes at such a high clip, that happens sometimes and there isn't much you can do for it though. The more frustrating thing was watching Kelly Olynyk slice up the Pistons defense time and time again because the Pistons were a step slow in rotations. I get that the Pistons are not the first team to struggle with the Heat's relentless drive and kick machine but it was still frustrating to watch the Pistons be totally unable to really make an effective adjustment to it. It was especially frustrating because the breakdown usually started by the Piston bigs not being able to effectively hedge and recover on screens, something that Drummond excels at.
All in all though, it is hard to be too upset. The Pistons were without their best two players, and Drummond is not expected to be out long, and Bradley had to shake off the rust. It sucks to lose but if there is a loss that is kind of justified it was this one.
What do you think? Could Boban have made up for it on the offensive end if he had gotten the chance? How about Buycks?