Game Recap/Notes: Game #55. Pistons 115 - Hawks 118. (27-28)

That sucked. In every way. Awfully reffed, not just against the Pistons. Game dragged on, neither team ever got into any sort of rhythm, and then the Pistons lose. It has been a while since I had such little fun watching a basketball game.

 

Box score.

 

Ish Smith:

Holy crap this was awful. Ish Smith played 29 minutes, scored 2 points on 4 shots, had 7 assists with 5 turnovers and 5 fouls. The fouls are only kind of his fault because the refs were awful but still. Even though his +/- didn't end up as bad, I really do feel like this game was on him. Because his lack of shooting his overall impact on the game is almost always worse than whatever the numbers showed and the numbers were awful. Normally he doesn't play this poorly of course, but I'm kind of at the point where you have to take Ish out of the starting lineup. His game just doesn't work with the starters especially with Blake Griffin's arrival and the re-insertion of Stanley Johnson to the starting lineup. Start Nelson, start Galloway, start Buycks, say screw it and go without a point guard. Ish Smith shouldn't start. (I now prepare for Ish to have a great game next time out just to spite me. You're welcome)

 

Reggie Bullock:

Reggie Bullock is still Ray Allen so thats fun. 20 points on 15 equivalents with 5 rebounds and a pair of assists in 34 minutes of play. The one thing is that the Pistons continue to struggle to get him looks in the second halves of games. He also once again struggled to contain a quick perimeter scorer in Dennis Schroder (after struggling with both Lou Williams and Austin Rivers last night) which is a bit surprising and disappointing because he has had good moments defensively this year. One good thing is that SVG was vocally upset about the lack of shots for him in the second half so hopefully they make more efforts to find him next time out.

One thing to mention as a nice positive from him lately is that he has really hit the defensive glass. SVG seems to have made it a focus for the guards and wings to not just assume Drummond is getting all the rebounds, and there have been several times where Bullock has come up with rebounds in traffic.

 

Stanley Johnson:

Bit badly by the foul bug of the awful refs saw him play just 20 minutes. Other than the fouls he did play pretty well in those minutes with 8 points on 5 equivalents. He just struggled to stay on the floor mostly, in good news he went 2 of 3 from deep which is nice.

 

Blake Griffin:

Two straight nights of rough play for Griffin. Part of it is just comfort with his surroundings. The offense is not likely to look smooth with Griffin for this entire season. I wonder also if part of it is just fatigue from everything that has happened, he admitted a few nights ago that he was a little wiped out from everything. Which isn't good but he is a human, he just had to totally pick up his life and move somewhere totally different with almost no warning. The only other good thing to mention is that he had a rough outing and still finished with 20 points on 23 equivalents with 7 rebounds and 6 assists against just 2 turnovers. (He technically had 23 points but the last 3 was a meaningless chuck as time expired that banked in so I'm not going to count it.) That is not good enough efficiency scoring the ball, and he went a terrible -21 on the night, but it is worth mentioning that his bad nights are not all that bad lol.

That said, it was a bad night for a few different reasons. The good news is that the Pistons offense was not as blatantly predictable as it was against the Clippers and he once again just missed a few shots that he normally hits. The biggest problem with his offense was his willingness to take jumpers. One thing to be clear about is that he is a better shooter than he's showed so far with the Pistons, but when teams totally ignore him I would rather him use that space as a runway to get up to speed and attack the hoop. He could actually take a page from Stanley Johnson in this regard. Once again, perhaps did that because he is wiped out, mentally and physically, and he will be better after a much needed rest over the all-star break. But regardless of the reason, he needs to hit more of those open jumpers, and also be less willing to take them.

The one thing that did carry over from the previous game was that he was too slow to close out on shooters on too many possessions. I still like his defensive effort for the most part, he communicates better than anyone else on the team, he tries harder than most with his offensive burden, and really rebounds. But he has to stick with shooters.

Overall it was just a rough game for Blake. He never got going and is struggling in the cramped spaces of the Pistons starting lineup. One thing worth mentioning in his defense is that the refs were trigger happy (both ways) all night as more fouls were called in this game than any other Pistons game all season while still early in the 4th quarter, and yet Griffin only shot 6 free throws. I think there is a chance he should've been at the line a few more times.

 

Andre Drummond:

(whispers) Andre Drummond may still be the best player on the team. What a difference a game makes, and the turnaround does make me think that maybe he was feeling sick or something last time out because the difference was night and day. 25 points on 20 equivalents (9-13 from the line!!!!) with 15 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, and 3 blocks in 37 minutes of play. He was also the only starter to not go negative on the night as he broke dead even. Him and Griffin still need to figure out how to best play off of each other, but Drummond took care of his business in this game. He defended well, rebounded well, and attacked the hoop at almost every opportunity. This was a great Drummond game and its a shame they wasted it.

 

James Ennis:

In his Piston debut James Ennis was impressive. He was pressed into a little extra time with Stanley Johnson in foul trouble and played really well, showing off the things that made him an ideal trade piece for the Pistons. 14 points on 9 equivalents with 4 rebounds and a pair of steals, he hit a three, got out in transition, made a couple nice defensive plays, and got to the hoop a couple of times. Given the spacing issues, it would not be a shock if he takes over in the starting lineup at some point.

 

Anthony Tolliver:

12 points on 9 equivalents with a pair of boards and 4 assists(!) in 22 minutes for Tolly. He did his job more or less just as he has over the past several weeks. They also got his minutes down a bit which was good to see.

 

Jameer Nelson:

Getting his first action and it was a mixed bag. On one hand, he was very bad on defense collecting 5 fouls in just 19 minutes of play. On the other hand the Pistons offense looked good for exactly one stretch in this game and it was with him in the game, running pick and rolls with Andre Drummond with shooters around them. He finished with 6 points on 7 equivalents with 5 assists and 1 turnover. He will not have to shore up his defensive efforts by much to be a really good option, but I do worry about it. That said, he still went +10 in just 19 minutes and will only get more comfortable with guys.

 

Luke Kennard:

19 minutes, 5 points on 5 shots with a pair of assists. He played pretty well I suppose but he didn't have a huge impact on either end other than blowing a couple of defensive plays.

 

Eric Moreland:

Played 4 minutes in the first half and didn't really do anything but he was +4 in those minutes so I won't complain. I'm not sure what the thought process was behind his playing, I'd like to think that they want to slip him in for a stretch just so Blake can play a few less minutes per night which would be fine with me but I don't know.

 

General:

The defense was bad, and the Pistons have really felt the crunch of their terrible spacing starting unit over the last three games. Against the Nets they toughed it out, and they nearly did it again tonight. But I think something kind of has to be done, maybe SVG will ride it out till the all-star break and use that time to make major adjustments (although Jackson should be back before long by that point which will help in a big way) but I'd swap out at least one of Stanley or Ish for now and I don't know which would be better. On one hand Ish's inability to shoot or score is a much bigger problem for the Pistons, especially since he isn't anywhere near Stanley on defense. On the other hand Stanley would be replaced by James Ennis (most likely) and I'd feel a lot better about putting him in the starting lineup than Nelson, Buycks, or Galloway (at point guard at least for Galloway) but something should happen. Quick turnaround though so I'd be surprised if much changed.

 

What do you think? Is Blake just spent mentally and physically right now? What starting lineup would you use?