I mean. Wow. What a freaking game. There is plenty of space here to bellyache and be upset, but I still hope everyone was able to enjoy that at least a bit.
Statistically Ish had a solid game. 14 points on 10 shots with 7 assists against just 7 turnovers in 38 minutes of play. He also made a couple of plays down the stretch, including a three-pointer. In the end though, I can't help but feel like Ish Smith is THE problem. We will see long term, I'm open to the fact that I may be wrong, but when I watch I just see how often he is ruining things. The most bizarre thing has been his total disintegration defensively. He has never been all that good of a defender, but he's been a total disaster over the last month or so, especially since the all-star break. He is fouling a three-point shooter every night, makes rotations that make absolutely no sense, and been comically bad as a transition defender. I don't know. Maybe I'm wrong. I'm just saying what I see, and I see Ish Smith as the guy at the heart of an awful lot of what has been wrong with the Pistons lately.
Roaring back into the rotation with Stanley Johnson out, SVG decided to give the offense a kick-start and just put Kennard into the starting lineup. Kennard himself had a bit of an uneven outing, 9 points on 8 shots with 6 rebounds, and 3 assists in 31 minutes. He missed a couple of shots he really should've hit, and his defense was at times a problem. That said, the Pistons could really have something with him and Bullock on the floor together. Right after the Blake Griffin trade I tossed out a theoretical lineup of Rjax/Kennard/Bullock/Griffin/Drummond as one that may be almost totally impossible to guard, and it was almost that with Ish Smith in Jackson's place. Kennard and Bullock are both such good shooters with quick releases, defenses react to them off the ball in a big way. I have no idea if Kennard starting is something SVG has any intention of sticking with or if it was just because Stanley Johnson was hurt and he wanted to match up rotations. (If you start Bullock and Ennis then you are playing Kennard at small forward some in this game) But Kennard has a positive influence on the offense.
This game was reminiscent of quite a few Marcus Morris games over the past two years. Bullock had a really good outing, scoring 21 points on just 15 equivalents along with 3 rebounds and 4 assists in 39 minutes. And several of those points were in the clutch. On the other end he gave everything he had to defend a great offensive player. And yet, he just couldn't do enough. He missed a very wide open (if really deep) three-pointer that would've (likely) won the Pistons the game in overtime, and no matter what he did he could not stop DeMar DeRozan on the other end. With Stanley Johnson out it largely fell to Bullock and he just couldn't do it. It was one of those games where it ends and its conflicting with the guy, on one hand he made offensive plays all night even if he missed a couple late and you don't want to be hard on a guy who gave his all on defense but on the other hand he could not slow down DeRozan at all. I'll give Bullock a positive on the night given that the Pistons didn't really have another option for DeRozan.
Blake Griffin heard you all talking crap. 31 points on 24 equivalents with 3 boards, 4 assists, 2 steals, and a block in 38 minutes. He made big play after big play down the stretch of the game, the sort of night where you know he can skip leg-day for a while because he did plenty of carrying in this game. In the end this was probably Griffin's best game with the Pistons, the Raptors had no good answer for him on one end, and Griffin looked as solid on defense as he has in a Piston uniform. He has started to look more comfortable in the offense and defense over the last few games, so I will say again. If there is one positive to take from the last few games where the Pistons playoff hopes died, it is that Blake Griffin has started to look like Blake Griffin. Dude just balled out.
One of those nights. I don't think he really even took any terrible shots (other than another kind of jumper. Yuck.) but he just couldn't get them in the hoop. 10 points on 14 shots with 21 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 blocks in 37 minutes. He rebounded the ball well of course, but he struggled a bit with the other areas of his game. The one good thing is that Valanciunas did not own him so that demon is pretty much done with now I think. The Pistons are getting him back involved as a passer and ball-handler after going totally away from him and I think that's a positive, but it will be challenging to find the right balance between having the ball with Drummond and Griffin.
I really like James Ennis lol. 14 points on 9 equivalents with 5 rebounds and 4 assists in 36 minutes of play. He gets out in transition and really attacks closeouts. He made several really big buckets at times in the game. The only thing I wonder is if he could've maybe done a better job against DeRozan, although he's probably a bit slow for that.
Like most of the bench (other than Ennis) it was a tale of two halves. In the first half Moreland was excellent, on the floor when the Pistons pulled out to a big lead. His energy was a problem for the Raptors. He made several defensive plays and even offensive plays. In the second half he struggled to make an impact though. In the end he played a good game though, 6 points on 4 shots with 8 rebounds and a couple blocks in 16 minutes is something I will always take from Moreland.
7 points on 4 shots. Tolly didn't have a huge impact on the game, but he hit a couple of shots and that is what he's there for. He did his job.
7 points on 10 equivalents with just a pair of assists in 15 minutes. This game is why there was hesitation to go to him in the rotation. He makes a tough living scoring the ball, and doesn't see the floor that well. I once again re-iterate that I love his defense which helps, and I also legitimately think he has outplayed Ish Smith lately. Tough game, but not awful.
Fun game. Some questionable calls, in the end the same thing did the Pistons in that has done them in a lot recently. Over SVG's tenure as coach, the Pistons have consistently been one of the top teams in the NBA at not turning the ball over, and keeping teams out of transition. (This is one of the reasons I still defend SVG FWIW, those are both markers of a well coached team) But since the all-star break the Pistons have had stretches where these two pillars of the team totally break down, they turn the ball over, and let opponents turn them into easy transition points. I don't know exactly what the deal is that is causing it, but that is a big problem.
This game also did a good job of highlighting the big question the Pistons face going forward. Griffin and Drummond can 100% work together, the trick will be finding the right mix around them with limited flexibility to do so. In this game Stanley Johnson was out with injury, and the Pistons offense looked as good as it has in a long time, Blake Griffin was unstoppable. And yet, with every DeMar DeRozan mid-range jumper you remembered how important Stanley Johnson is to the Piston defense. And that is the question, how do you find the right mix of offense and defense?
What do you think? How about Blake Griffin? Should Ennis have gotten some run against DeRozan?