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Defense, turnovers sink Pistons vs. Pacers

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Despite the best efforts of Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson, Detroit slumps to 1-3 in preseason action.

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

NOTE: Last night was my first time sitting in the arena to watch the Detroit Pistons play, and while it was a disappointing result, it was still a great experience. I sat right behind the Pistons' radio guys, and saw Rick Mahorn and Mark Champion commentating. Mahorn likes to play Candy Crush while he talks on air, which I have proof of, but I have no idea how to use photos from my phone here. Also, here's a tweet I sent to him during the game.

The Detroit Pistons just can't put together a consistent 48 minutes this preseason, save for a marvelous outing in Milwaukee. The culprit this time was stretches of cold play both early in the first half and late in the game, where the starters just couldn't get anything going despite a massive outing from Andre Drummond and Ersan Ilyasova waking up from his preseason slumber. Let's go through some talking points from last night's game:

Power Forward play

It appears that this preseason only one of our designated leading forwards can play well on any given night. In Milwaukee, Marcus Morris showed up with an efficient outing, scoring 21 points on eight for 10 shooting. Last night, however, Ersan had perhaps his best game, scoring 17 points (admittedly, it took 17 shots to get 17 points, very inefficient) and pulling down six rebounds in 28 minutes. Ersan came off the bench to make room for Stanley Johnson in the starting lineup, and after a rough start to his game, he caught fire in the fourth quarter, hitting three of his four triples as the Pistons took a five-point lead.

Morris, however, struggled this game, with six points and three rebounds in 18 minutes. If I was a betting man, with a back-to-back Wednesday in Chicago, he'll come off the bench and Ilyasova will start with Johnson, but we can't be sure.

At the very least, we finally saw a glimpse of the long range game that Ersan provides, and here's to hoping that this improved performance will be a precursor to a stronger rest of preseason.

Stanley Johnson is still a rookie

We can ooh and aah all we like about Stanley Johnson's brief NBA career, and with good reason, but Tuesday night's offering was the worst of his preseason so far. Numbers wise, his game was about par, finishing with 16 points and six rebounds, but he only shot five for 15 from the field, including missing all three of his triple tries. Some consolation can be taken in the fact that he was aggressive in getting to the line, and made six out of seven from the charity stripe, a good sign given his struggles in summer league. Perhaps this is the payoff of working with Dave Hopla.

However, sitting in the stands at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, I observed some issues with Johnson's game, namely on the offensive end. One thing I found was that he can sometimes get tunnel vision when handling the ball, and sometimes fails to make the right pass. One example: Late in the game was when the Pistons were down by four, Johnson grabbed an offensive rebound and landed facing away from the basket. He had a wide open Jodie Meeks for three, and while Jodie vigorously called for the ball, Johnson bullied his way inside and scored a tough layup. Good result, but poor process from the rookie.

Andre Drummond's defense

Everyone knows it, but Andre Drummond is a far worse defender than his size and athleticism should allow. Far too often he is caught ball watching and standing around when his man is being active. His main problem is being asked to guard players who can hit a jumpshot, which, unfortunately for him, is the way the league is trending. Lavoy Allen, Myles Turner and Jordan Hill all exploited this weakness in his game for several wide open shots, with Allen in particular having his way in the midrange.

However, we can take solace in Drummond's dominance as a rebounder, as the Pacers didn't always capitalize on their open looks. Dre finished with 17 points and 21 rebounds (10 offensive), with a lot of those offensive rebounds coming in clusters from missed tip-ins (he finished eight for 20 from the field). Also, in a refreshing development, he went through his 30 minutes foul-free, something important if Van Gundy is to maximize his effectiveness as a rebounder, as the rest of the starters have struggled in that regard.

Dinwiddie is still a third string point guard

Spencer Dinwiddie has aeons of potential, and at just 22, time on his side. At 6'6 he has the size to see over most matchups, and led the rookies last year in turnover rate. However, this preseason, he has displayed an alarming propensity to waste away the shot clock by overdribbling and not forcing penetration. Most of the plays he ran looked disjointed and didn't really force anything.

Due to both Brandon Jennings and Steve Blake being out, Van Gundy had to go back to Reggie Jackson in the fourth when I'm sure he'd have preferred to sit Jackson, but Dinwiddie was having an awful time. Someone in the thread pointed out that there were a lot of forces at the end of the shot clock, because a lot of the time he found himself near half court with five seconds left on the clock. He won't be cut from the team, but maybe it will be a good thing to have him sit behind Blake and learn the nuances of running a second unit for a while.


Fortunately for the Pistons, they have the chance to immediately atone for their loss, with a preseason back-to-back Wednesday in Chicago. Justin will have the preview for that one coming up later.