December can’t end soon enough for the Pistons. They entered the month 10-10 and poised to get one of their best players back. They will end the month 15-20 and in a full blown tailspin.
Still this game was an interesting combination of encouraging and discouraging.
Discouraging: between the end of the second quarter and the start of the third, the Hawks went on a 12-0 run to open their lead up to 17 points. It was what we’ve seen too much of during this dismal stretch. When team faces adversity during the game, they fold.
Encouraging: the Pistons actually pulled back into it! They closed the lead to just four points behind some opportunistic defense and (gasp!) ball movement on offense.
But their defense couldn’t hold up and too much of the stretch was just trading blows with the Hawks. The Hawks landed a couple of big ones in the final two minutes with a tip from Dwight Howard and a bucket from Paul Millsap deep in the paint. A shady foul on a three point attempt for Kyle Korver (the ball didn’t lie, he missed the first one) gave the Hawks back to an eight point lead to slam the door shut on the comeback attempt.
The Pistons still made it interesting with a Kentavious Caldwell-Pope three point shot inside 30 seconds and nearly forcing a turnover on the ensuing inbound pass. It was initially called out of bounds on Korver when he mishandled the pass, but the play was overturned. Free throws and lights out.
Reggie Jackson also played at both ends of the spectrum tonight. He was astonishingly bad in the first quarter, shooting 1-7 with a couple of lousy turnovers. It was the Reggie Jackson show, with practically no ball movement - and you didn’t want tickets to that show.
But in the fourth quarter, he was able to balance scoring and distribution. He scored 10 fourth quarter points and was crucial for the comeback. Jackson finished with 20 points on 7-17 shooting, eight assists, and four turnovers.
It feels tongue in cheek to say “At least they didn’t lose by double digits” after a seven point loss, but at least they didn’t lose by double digits. The Pistons had dropped six of their previous nine games by 10 or more points and were poised to make it their seventh in ten. But they actually showed some resilience.
Jon Leuer continues to excel in the starting lineup. He scored 22 points on 9-16 shooting with six rebounds and a pair of steals. All five starters finished in double figures scoring, but Leuer was the only one who played particularly well throughout.
Tobias Harris was back in the starting lineup with Marcus Morris out with a sore knee.
But hey, December’s over for the Pistons, as is 2016. 2017 will be better.
They’ll kick off the new year in Miami to play the Heat on Sunday.