Opening night at The Palace! If you were thinking explosive, fire-spouting, ear splitting intros, well lemme tell you! They didn't really happen.
After a subdued Mason introduction, the Pistons followed suit, with only humble Ersan Ilyasova jump shots keeping them afloat early. The Jazz used Gordon Hayward as the pick setter in early PnR's, and the Pistons soft switched each time, leading to easy drives and post-ups for the swingman against smaller defenders. Reggie Jackson and Marcus Morris started somewhat passively on offense, though some of Morris's hesitation to attack may have been due to a trademark early Joey Crawford ticky-tack offensive foul call. In contrast to the first game of the season, this time the Pistons reserves seemed to stabilize a wobbly attack, with Steve Blake, Anthony Tolliver and Jodie Meeks coming in and driving the ball and swinging it with more purpose, leading to a 9-1 run to end the quarter.
In the second quarter the Pistons bench players continued to loosen up the stiff Jazz defense. Steve Blake penetrated off the dribble, setting up Aron Baynes with pretty bounce passes inside. Stanley Johnson continued to be aggressive both shooting and attacking the glass, which seemed to rub off on Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. KCP came to life with consecutive drive and finishes inside - including a flashy little finger roll. Derrick Favors proved to be the most troublesome opponent early, with his mix of power and skill making it tough for SVG to find the right defensive matchup. Despite the higher scoring in the quarter (the first quarter was 16-15 Pistons but the Jazz won the second 29-25), the Pistons continued to struggle to get the ball through the hoop, shooting 40% from the field and 10-16 on FT's at the half. Meanwhile, the Jazz shot 13-19 in the quarter. No bueno.
The Pistons started the third quarter with much better energy, opening the scoring with a successful Andre Drummond post-up, then a Jackson runner, then KCP drew a foul on an aggressive drive. The fun wouldn't last; the Jazz defense again mucked up the flow of the game. A major assist should also go to Joey Crawford, whose fingerprints remained all over the game, with uneven calls going in both directions. Blake came back off the bench to return some movement to the Pistons attack, driving and dishing like the seasoned pro that he is.
The fourth quarter began with the Pistons bench still bringing the good vibes and aggressiveness. Stanley Johnson caught the Jazz sleeping on a couple of one-man fast breaks, again showing a surprising willingness to attack for a 19-year-old. More of that, please, Stanley. The endgame became a grind-it-out affair, with the Pistons and Jazz trading offensive fouls: Reggie committed the worlds most obvious hook, but Morris took a clutch charge from Hayward.
Jackson's tendency to try and beat pressure with the dribble instead of the pass almost proved very costly, as possession after possession ended with him dribbling until the shot clock was about to expire and the Jazz mounted a final comeback attempt. But the PnR of Reggie and Andre that so much of the Pistons' future hopes hinge upon ultimately was the difference maker, as a solid pick from Dre freed a lane to the hoop and Rudy Gobert was too worried about a lob to fully commit before Jackson had muscled up a game-deciding bucket.
Andre Drummond. The formula is here, and it is good. Dre didn't score a decisive knock out, but he won his matchup with Gobert. With that in the bag, the supporting cast mainly had to play good perimeter D, and make some threes. They did just enough of both to win, but it all starts with the big guy.
George Blahaha Moment of the Night
Ersan Ilysova drew three charges by my count, and each one was as effective as a steal or monster block; one actually robbed Gobert of a directly-off-the-backboard layup. His veteran savvy has so far been a huge boon to the team, not only on offense but on defense, giving opposing teams something else to worry about when driving to the hoop.
2-0 and it feels good.
Now your thoughts!