Heading into the final weeks of the season, the Detroit Pistons biggest hurdle into finally cracking postseason play is the team that stares back at them when looking into the mirror. If the Eastern Conference had to deal with a Pistons team running on all cylinders night in and night out, playoffs wouldn't be the question, rather, at what seed? That scenario, however, is far from reality. The Pistons have shown the ability to compete with any team in the league and conversely, have the ability to get beaten by any team.
Needless to say, consistency is an issue. That un-even trend continued Saturday night with a 115-103 win against the Brook Lopez-less (sick) Brooklyn Nets.
The Nets had, literally, nothing to play for. The playoffs waived good bye to Brooklyn sometime in November. They don't own their draft picks, so win or lose has no meaning. Basically, it was Thad Young and a bunch of guys auditioning for next year vs. the Detroit Pistons, who have everything to play for.
On paper, this is an easy win but the Nets put up a fight until mid-way through the fourth quarter when an Anthony Tolliver led run finally put the undermanned Nets team away for good. Tolliver finished the game with 17 points, including four three pointers.
The Pistons, playing the second of a back-to-back also received a large contribution from Stanley Johnson. The rookie filled the box score totaling 10 points, seven rebounds, six assists and four steals. Most importantly, Johnson showed a willingness to compete, especially on the defensive end.
Including the play of Aron Baynes (21 points, seven rebounds) the bench really bailed this team out, which is a good thing. Right?
Unable to impose their will
At the end of the third quarter, the game was tied at 77. From there, the bench took over and eventually the Pistons captured a much needed win. The Nets were prime for a blowout loss but the Piston starters refused to impose their will on a team that sent borderline NBA talent onto the court.
This teams success now and moving forward depends on the play of Reggie Jackson and Andre Drummond. It's a "good" scary and a "bad" scary situation.
Reggie Jackson isn't short on confidence and to be successful in the NBA, it's a must own attribute but players get in trouble when confidence turns into arrogance. Not taking this Nets team seriously isn't a good look and was direct reflection of Jackson's casual play. When Jackson realized the Nets weren't going to lay down, he became frustrated. That frustration culminated in a technical foul called on Jackson just before halftime.
The technical foul came after a no call when Jackson felt Shane Larkin didn't him enough room to land after an elbow jump shot.
With respect to Larkin, nothing Shane Larkin does should be on Jackson's radar. While talented, Jackson hasn't done enough in this league to earn any bail out calls and to expect them would be foolish. Being visibly frustrated at the hands of Larkin (or the like) can be extinguished by letting him know he doesn't have a chance at the opening tip and then showing him.
Andre Drummond is months away from becoming the highest paid Piston in the team's history. As we all know, Drummond is a hell of a talent. To be that big and be that agile is borderline unfair. He can do things on the court that very few in the history of the game can do.
With Lopez out, making the start for the Brooklyn Nets at center was a fella by the name of Willie Reed.
Put your hand up if you've heard of Willie Reed.
Surly, Drummond would have his way on the block and in the paint against Reed and the rest of the Nets. Not exactly.
It's not that Drummond played bad or was the sole reason it was a dog fight game for three quarters, it's the fact that he didn't smell blood. Maybe its an acquired trait but clearly, as of today, Drummond doesn't have it.
The best days of both Jackson and Drummond are ahead of them but to make a serious run, the Pistons need them now.