As we all knew heading into the season, the Pistons would encounter growing pains and learn lessons the hard way as they continued to reroute the franchise's compass. One thing all good teams do is consistently beat bad ones and even though the Brooklyn Nets hung around, the Pistons left the court with a double digit win 103-89. In late November, Detroit lost to this very same Net team and in a competitive Eastern Conference, leaving winnable games on the table is a bad look.
Lesson learned. A lesson that might have cost The Nets' Lionel Hollins and Billy King their jobs, in fact.
Detroit made it a point of emphasis to get out and run, and Reggie Jackson, finishing with 23 points and 8 assists, continued to force the issue finding open teammates down the court for easy buckets as the Pistons outscored the Nets 26-5 on the fast break. When he wasn't looking for transition helpers, Jackson drove to the basket with relative ease. Or maybe he just makes it look easy? Jackson has an innate ability to finish at the rim with either hand; the skill isn't unique to Jackson but the confidence to put it to use certainly is.
Speaking of confidence, Stanley Johnson made his first start of the year in place of Marcus Morris, who sat with an ailing left knee. As the season progresses, Johnson has been given more responsibility and, more importantly, the rookie has openly accepted it.
Johnson's attitude was one of his highest selling points entering the 2015 NBA Draft and in large part, it was that singular trait that drew the attention of Stan Van Gundy. As we've seen first hand all year long, even if he's struggling with his shot or any other aspect of the game, effort is never a question with Johnson. Tons of young guys talk a big game heading into their rookie year but Stanley Johnson backs it up on a nightly basis; one way or another, he's going to make a positive impact in favor of the Pistons. He finished the night 4-of-13 shooting for eight points and logged a career-high 39 minutes.
The Morris injury saw a trickle down effect with another rookie, Darrun Hilliard. The Villanova product scored eight points, including a triple, an "and one" and a two-handed baseline dunk that, frankly, I didn't know he was capable of. Hilliard may not see much action this year unless the circumstances are just right and tonight was one of those nights. One of the hardest things to do for bench players is staying ready knowing there is a small chance of actually playing. Usually, this type of mindset comes with experience but Hilliard proved to be up to the task.
Ersan Ilyasova came to Detroit with basically two marketable skills: stretching the floor and offensive rebounding. In Detroit's offensive scheme, Drummond is typically surrounded by shooters leaving Ilyasova hovering around the three point line. However, as Ersan becomes more comfortable in a Piston uniform, he also has been given a longer leash to attack the offensive glass. Saturday night saw Ilyasova finish with a double-double in 19 points and 13 rebounds including five on the offensive end. SVG is a huge proponent of stopping the opponents transition opportunities (GET BACK!!) so five offensive rebounds from Ersan won't be the norm but as trust grows between player and coach an uptick in that category could be expected.
Andre Drummond scored 11 field goals (23 total points) of which only one was a dunk. Interesting at best and again, far from the norm moving forward. After three and a half years of watching him play, Detroit fans know the athleticism he brings to the table. Seeing him finish with in the open court with a finger roll or a driving reverse lay up should hardly move the needle. The meat and potatoes of Drummond's game is power, as it should be. With that said, watching a seven footer move the way he moves is unreal.
The Brooklyn Nets dressed players on Saturday night that hardly looked the part of NBA talent and in turn the Pistons won handily. Competition of that caliber won't be the case for the foreseeable future. The next five games include: San Antonio, @ Memphis, Golden State, Chicago and @ Houston. In a season full of lessons, what will happen next?