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Pistons vs. Hawks recap: Detroit looks great on opening night

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Stan Van Gundy's team surprises even the most optimistic Pistons fans on opening night with an impressive win over the Atlanta Hawks.

Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Wasn't that fun, Piston fans? Throughout the second half of this season-opening win, as the Pistons extended their lead to as many as 19 points, I had this ridiculous smile on my face and an irresistible urge to laugh.

I felt like the only person in Philips Arena who wasn't shocked by what was happening on the court. It was my dirty little secret. Eventually, I gave in and laughed... shortly before the crowd began heading for the exits.

I have to keep this short because I need to get to bed (my toddler doesn’t care if I stayed up late), but a few thoughts on Tuesday night's very encouraging win over the Hawks.

"Deeeeetroit Basketbaaaaaaalllll!!!" chants were bellowed out by Pistons fans all night. As optimistic as you all know I’ve been about this team, I must admit that even I was pleasantly surprised they played as well as they did on opening night.

Here are some bullet points:

  • The two front-court starters Stan Van Gundy added in the offseason, Marcus Morris and Ersan Ilyasova (in exchange for Caron Butler, Shawne Williams and some unknown 14-year-old prodigy), went for 34 points (on 31 shots), 17 rebounds and 7 assists tonight. Nice work, Stan.
  • Andre Drummond, in spite of looking very rough on the post, put up 18 points, 19 rebounds, 2 blocks and went 6-10 from the line. Imagine what his stat line will look like when he develops a real post game and hits a few more of those 6-footers.
  • Kentavious Caldwell-Pope put up an efficient (!) 21 points on 14 shots, played great defense and did it all on the road… though technically he was at home in Georgia. (Just kidding, KCP… great game.) Honestly, he looked fantastic. The big difference from previous years is that he's letting the game come to him. He isn't forcing shots anymore, and he's taking his time when he's open. Seems like he's okay not taking shots unless they're coming within the flow of the offense. He also kept Kyle Korver under wraps most of the night, which is no small feat.
  • I want Brandon Jennings on that second unit.
  • Reggie Jackson was merely okay tonight (did way too much dribbling at times), and the team still won by 12 against a very good team. That bodes well for the rest of the season.

Slightly less organized observations

From my pretty good seat just above the lower bowl, I noticed that the Hawks’ plan was not only to stop the Dre/Reggie pick & roll, it was also to double-team Reggie whenever possible. It led to many broken plays, too much dribbling and too many turnovers.

Those things should improve as the season progresses, but the lack of a secondary ball handler is going to hurt them this year, at least until Jennings returns.

Marcus Morris may have shot 6-19, but he often didn’t have much of a choice. He took multiple shots as the clock was winding down and frankly, no one else was able to create his own shot. I really thought he looked good - confident, assertive and aggressive. The difference between his "bad" shots and those of Josh Smith is that Smith's usually came early in the shot clock, while Morris' came late. Hopefully, as they become more cohesive on offense, he won’t have to take so many tough shots.

Steve Blake looks like he’s shot-putting when shooting threes. Very awkward-looking stroke. Also, he got torched by Dennis Schroder all night. I know he’s rusty, but I really think Swag is going to make a big difference when he returns.

Stanley Johnson may have looked a bit excited at times, but overall he looked like he belongs, and he knows it.  7/4/3 isn’t a bad line for his first real NBA game. Played good defense, too.

If the Pistons had lost tonight, I’d be saying "Be patient. It’s only one game." Instead, I’ll say "Try not to get too excited. It’s only one game."

But even after one game, isn’t it a bit tough to see this team going 37-45?  I’m feeling better about my little Vegas wager on that over/under, as well as all that Kool-Aid I’ve been peddling.

Let the fun begin.