The return of Reggie Jackson to the state of Oaklahoma proved unsuccessful as the Pistons fell to the Thunder 103-87. After an ugly end to his Thunder career, the home crowd booed Jackson with every chance. Although finishing with a decent line of 15 points, five rebounds and four assists, Jackson's play was largely ineffective and inefficient (4-16 field goal attempts, -20). Not exactly what he had in mind. Detroit held a lead as large as 13 in the first half but behind Kevin Durant's game-high 34 points, OKC outscored Detroit 55-32 in the second half to hammer home the win. Losing to a championship caliber team on the road is nothing to feel bad about, it was a tale of two halves and in many ways, a microcosm of the young season. In other words....
The ups and downs continue. Sigh.
The game of basketball will always revolve around talent, but there are certain truths that when applied, can make the difference in a single game and an entire season.
Agression on the offensive end, when used appropriately, is a players best friend. If aggression is abused however, it can unearth some bad basketball. It's a fine line that usually comes with experience and the Pistons as a team, are still tinkering with when to impose their assertiveness.
The first half of Piston play was a great example of effective aggression. When Kentavious Caldwell-Pope takes the ball to the hoop, good things happen. In the first quarter alone, KCP finished a possession at the rack three times and drew OKC fouls twice while also converting on a layup. After going 3-of-4 from the stripe, those three possessions netted five points, simply by not settling for jump shots.
He wasn't the only Piston who found success driving to the basket.
With Jackson in early foul trouble, Steve Blake registered 21 minutes of playing time, finishing with five points and seven assists. Going along with tonight's theme, most of that damage was done in the first half. When Blake drove, the defense followed, giving shooters open looks to knock down 3-pointers and Andre Drummond space to move.
Basketball 101. It's a simple game if you let it be.
Marcus Morris has the ability to put the ball on the floor and the strength to finish at the rim. He's also in love with the midrange game. if the shots are falling, it's a sight to see. When they're not, though, it kills the offense. On two first-half possessions against OKC, Morris aggressively drove the ball and was rewarded at the line and finished a layup. Two possessions, four points, just by being aggressive.
This all disappeared in the second half.
It's completely unfair to compare anyone to Kevin Durant. When healthy, Durant is one of the top three players in the world. However, if the Pistons want a blueprint of effective aggression, look no further than OKC's No. 35. Durant's talent is second to none, but it's his ability to know when to apply pressure to the defense that sets him apart. Not only did he drop 34 points but he also collected 11 rebounds and handed out five assists, seemingly making a play as needed.
Durant's all-world teammate Russell Westbrook had mostly a disastrous night thanks in large part to the defense of KCP combined with forcing the issue too much (an example of abused aggression). Westbrook finished the night with 14 points on 5-14 shooting with 11(!) turnovers all while fouling out. Make no mistake, every team in the league would love to have Westbrook on their roster but too many times he keeps both teams in the game. Westbrook is a special talent and if he can ever learn to harness his energy, he graduates from a special talent to a generational talent.