I think it was with two minutes left when I said out aloud, "Wait, Stanley Johnson's still in the game."
The statement was not to insinuate that he shouldn't be out there, but more of genuine surprise. Simply because of how heavily the Detroit Pistons have relied on the starters through the first half of the season. Last night in Boston, it was a different story, with both Stanimal and Baynes seeing big minutes down the stretch instead of the usual Ersan Ilyasova and Andre Drummond. Drummond sitting made sense, he had tweaked his leg minutes earlier, and we know Brad Stevens loves himself a Hack-a-Dre strategy. But Johnson was more of a surprise, because it was Stanimal's play down the stretch in crunch time that sealed the Detroit Pistons' victory over the Boston Celtics in the Garden.
With under a minute to go, Stanley hit a crucial corner three to push the Pistons' lead to four. While this shot was huge, it's important to note what had happened just before. Stanley had an open look and instead drove to the rim. Instead of a layup or free throws, the Pistons turned the ball over because of an offensive foul on Stanley. Reggie got into his ear immediately afterwards. On the next play, Johnson caught a pass and shot that clutch three with confidence.
This moment should not be downplayed. Confidence is something we've always heard when people discuss Stanimal, the way he carried himself in Summer League, training camp, pre-season and so on. He's a confident player. But still, this is a rookie in the NBA, and at times, his play has looked tentative. To commit a really bad turnover and then respond with a big, late-game shot is somewhat of a turning point. Not to mention how much it shows the faith Big Stan Van Gundy has in his young rookie.
Langlois mentioned it in his post-game write-up, and it bears echoing - the Stanimal is starting to get into a rhythm with this second unit. It's no coincidence that the bench has been playing better as of late, and this can be attributed to a few factors, but one of which has to be Stanley's confidence and chemistry with them. Off the court, it seems that the Stanimal is a constant source of entertainment. Dabbing with teammates, dancing in the locker room, and generally bringing a good energy to everything. He loves being a Piston, and perhaps this more than anything else is why seeing him succeed on the court has been so enjoyable.
And no, I'm not saying all of this because DBB Twitter sent out this tweet after the game and I feel like we need to clean up. This analysis was already in the works. After all, this is the same site that wrote about his ROY potential in the preseason and told fans to follow their Stanimalistic Urges. It's been nothing but a Stanimal Farm on here since he replied to that post-draft interview with our "Detroit vs. Everybody" mantra.
More performances like the one in Boston is going to make us laugh with tears of happiness as well.