It was a tale of two halves for the Pistons. With Tobias Harris, Jon Leuer, Avery Bradley, and Andre Drummond not seeing time for a variety of reasons, the Pistons decided to go with a starting lineup of Reggie Jackson, Luke Kennard, Stanley Johnson, Henry Ellenson, and Boban Marjanovic. If that sounds like a group that might struggle out of the gate, well, they did.
The Pistons used a combination of poor defense and poor offense to head into halftime trailing 50-40. Indiana scored 34(!) of their 50 points in the paint in the first half, and were running a layup line on the Pistons defense. A big reason for that was the poor defensive frontcourt pairing of Boban Marjanovic and Henry Ellenson. As much as I want Boban to be the full-time backup center, I can’t help but think that Eric Moreland is more deserving of being the regular backup to Andre Drummond after watching him play the last few games.
Boban is a dominant scorer and a huge mismatch - he finished with 14 points. However, Boban’s lack of mobility is a huge detriment defensively and he is kind of just a black hole on offense. Once the ball goes into him, most of the rest of the team stands around before the shot goes up. He is definitely more of a situational big.
Moreland, on the other hand, plays solid defense, sets solid screens, hustles hard for rebounds, and throws some great passes out of the post. His insertion into the game for Marjanovic played a large role in the Pistons better effort defensively in the second half. Moreland played a big role down the stretch and finished the game with four points, seven rebounds, and five assists.
This game was also Jackson’s first action since being shut down last season due to his knee tendinitis. He looked more explosive and closer to the 2015-2016 version of Jackson. He was still a bit rusty at finishing at the rim and shooting from behind the arc, but his offseason rehab appears to have helped, as he finished the game with 14 points on six-for-15 shooting and six assists.
The Pistons tightened things up defensively in the second half, and used a healthy dose of threes to make the comeback and put this game away, led by Anthony Tolliver and Reggie Bullock. The two combined to shoot six-for-nine from beyond the long line. Both players were a huge reason for the comeback, as they moved the ball well, hit their shots, and played solid defense.
Ish Smith was also huge, as he finished an assist short of a double-double with 14 points and nine assists.
A big takeaway from this game for me is that the Pistons are set in their frontcourt. They have a solid small forward rotation with Stanley Johnson and Reggie Bullock. Johnson looks comfortable in the starting lineup, and the game definitely appears to have slowed down for him.
Also, a very solid player at power forward is going to be left out of the rotation. Tobias Harris, Anthony Tolliver, Jon Leuer, and Henry Ellenson have all been solid during the preseason. Ellenson is showing the offensive potential that made him an intriguing prospect in the draft, and Anthony Tolliver is showing The Tolliver Effect to be true once again.
The center rotation is also set with Andre Drummond, Boban Marjanovic, and Eric Moreland all looking like they will be solid contributors this season. As I said above, I have been most impressed with Moreland, a guy who had to carve a role for himself this preseason, and who’s done so.