Is it going to be like this all season?
Ok, let me buckle in a little tighter.
The Pistons entered the second half against the Minnesota Timberwolves down six but ended up winning on the road, 96-86. Andre Drummond scored 15 of his 21 in the third quarter and hauled in 11 rebounds to keep the double-double streak alive. Drummond tagged in his partner Reggie Jackson in the fourth quarter to finish off the Timberwolves. Jackson did what he does best, drove to the hoop and finished the quarter with eight timely points.
The play of Jackson and Drummond is going to determine the outcome of most games and while the pairing finished strong, is was the play of the much-maligned bench that kept the Pistons within striking distance.
Yup, that bench.
Stanley Johnson led the bench scoring with 15 points, including canning three triples. Not only did Johnson showcase his outside touch but the rookie also bullied his way to the rim against smaller defenders highlighted by a baseline dunk late in the fourth that is probably his highlight of the year.
Johnson is learning the old fashioned way: by waiting his turn. After Summer League and the preseason, the hype machine was on overdrive and expectations were almost too high. While fellow rookies like Karl-Anthony Towns and Jahlil Okafor are immediately the offensive centerpiece of their teams, Johnson has been asked to fill a specific role and against Minnesota, he filled that role perfectly. The Pistons are in a full-time need of secondary ball handling and bench scoring and with a little more polish, Stanley Johnson can be that player now and the superstar later.
The demotion of Steve Blake has led to the re-emergence of Spencer Dinwiddie and with Reggie Jackson in early foul trouble, the focus shifted to the second year point guard early and often. Dinwiddie played as if he belonged on the court --a welcoming sign-- and although he finished with only six points and two assists, he was a willing and accurate passer while directing a functional offense. Exactly what a backup point guard should do.
Confidence goes a long way in hoops and the more Dinwiddie plays, the more confident he gets. At this point, we've seen what Blake can offer (and not offer) and barring a huge collapse in play from Dinwiddie (or injury) there's really no point in going back to Blake. Sooner or later we've got to find out if Spencer Dinwiddie is a player or not and the time to do it is now. There is no guarantee Brandon Jennings comes back the way we remember him; backup point guard is an important part to any successful team and Dinwiddie has been given a golden opportunity to seize that role.
Andre Drummond joined Jackson with early foul trouble and Aron Baynes stepped up finishing with six points, 11 rebounds and a pair of steals and blocks. This was the first time all season Baynes was asked to do box score things and not simply set screens or block out. He's not exactly a rim protector but the two blocks he recorded prevented two lay ups. Maybe the most impressive play from Baynes was a verticality no call he executed on high jumper Andrew Wiggins in the fourth quarter.
For as much as we love Andre Drummond (and we certainly do), he does own two nasty habits that don't seem to be going away anytime soon: dumb fouls and horrific free throw shooting. In both cases, Baynes is going to have his number called numerous times throughout the season to fill in because of foul trouble or the hack-a-Dre strategy. He's going to get minutes and sooner or later (like tonight) they're going to be meaningful. On another positive note, how about that Dad-in-the-driveway hook shot that finds daylight when Baynes takes the floor?
It wasn't all roses for the bench. Both Anthony Tolliver and Reggie Bullock struggled from the floor combining for an 0-for-10 shooting night.
For Tolliver, there's a bit of a longer leash. We know exactly what we're going to get from him even when the shots aren't falling as he usually will make his mark on the defensive end. In Bullock's case, if you're not going to hit the open three point shot....why are you out there? Or on the team for that matter.
We don't win that game without the huge contributions from Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson but they don't get the opportunity to shine without role players playing their role.
The first half was ugly. Offensively, the Pistons did everything we hate.
The second half was a different story as the Pistons did everything we love.
Try not to get too high or too low this season. Don't like what your seeing? Stick around. Like Michigan weather, it's bound to change.