The Detroit Pistons shocked ... well, me, honestly, by upsetting the Indiana Pacers in their building with a thrilling 119-110 victory. The Pistons were without their best player in Blake Griffin but several people stepped up in his absence, especially Andre Drummond and Luke Kennard.
The two combined for 62 points on just 31 shots. Each hit 8-of-10 from the free-throw line, and Drummond added 23 boards and four blocks while Kennard hit six threes. The team’s new faces also had a big hand in delivering the W to the D. Derrick Rose was explosive and an offensive spark off the bench with 18 points and nine assists while Tony Snell camped out on the perimeter and scored buckets to help spread the floor.
I wanted to throw together some videos to showcase just how the veterans might be used or play differently this season while showcasing just why the new players were brought in to contribute.
Let’s start with the player of the game who might have played the game of his life in Andre Drummond. He was explosive, decisive and locked in the entire game. The most intriguing aspect was his new aggressive face-up game he went to over and over again. He has a great first step, handles that might be just good enough to make this sustainable and a gigantic frame that allows him to create separation from defenders.
Here he is bringing ball up the floor and attacking Myles Turner, the heart of Indiana’s interior defense, and no slouch on that end of the floor.
Kennard had a career-high 30 points and did it OFF THE BENCH, and did it using ONLY 13 SHOTS. He is the ninth Pistons player to hit 30 or more points on 13 or fewer shots joining Tobias Harris, Chauncey Billups, Grant Hill, Joe Dumars, Rick Mahorn(!), Adrian Dantley, Dave Bing and Walt Belamy. Players who have done it since the start of last season: Nikola Jokic, Jimmy Butler, De’Aron Fox, Paul George, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Montrezl Harrell, Lauri Markkanen, Domantas Sabonis and Garrett Temple.
How’d he do it? With a deadly 3-point shot and a quick trigger finger. Kennard was essentially racing defenders to the 3-point line. If he go there first, you were toast.
Rose was brought to Detroit to be the engine that ensured the offense wouldn’t sputter when starters were off the floor. He delivered and, to the surprise of few, was out there in crunch time to close out the victory. He scored his points by relentlessly attacking the basket.
Malcom Brogdon is another good defender and here Rose just absolutely twists into a pretzel with a nice change-of-pace crossover to get a clean look at the rim.
Snell was not brought to Detroit to fill up highlight reels, he was acquired to play quality, long-limbed defense and hit all the open shots that Stanley Johnson couldn’t. His 40% accuracy from deep opens up the floor for everyone else and makes their jobs easier.
Here’s a nice one-two punch for Rose and Snell. Rose attacks downhill and sucks in four defenders to give the wide-open opportunity for Snell.
Detroit’s best perimeter defender had a variety of assignments Wednesday night, but here’s a great look at his ability to fight to get through a screen, prevent an easy passing angle to the rolling big man and pester his man (Brogdon) into an awkward hoist at the rim.
Jackson did not play a great game. But he knows how to pilot a vessel well enough. He made some characteristic Reggie hail mary-type passes, and did some simple pick-and-roll action kickouts on the perimeter and to the roll man. it was ... adequate. Here is a good look at his chemistry with Drummond. It’s notable because Drummond’s ability as a roll man took a big hit once Reggie’s burst diminished and he wasn’t as much of a threat to finish at the rim. Defenders just glue themselves to Drummond and dare Jackson to do something. Here, though, the pick-and-roll allows Drummond a head of steam and he goes for that face-up game and feathery touch at the basket. Nice.
Morris is no Blake Griffin, to be sure, and he struggled overall against the Pacers. His shot wasn’t falling, though he got two quality mid-post looks to go down when things were getting dicey. He also struggled to rebound (everyone other than Drummond did, actually). But he knows how to play quality defense and, like his brother, he’s not shy. Here he is trying to make sure things don’t go off the rails after Reggie Jackson, predictably, gets lost on a screen and it forces a switch. Morris quickly grabs Sabonis and tells Reggie to jump out to the perimeter. It allowed Morris to block out Sabonis and make sure the Pistons grabbed the missed shot.
Another player who struggled, to put it mildly, was Maker. He couldn’t defend, he was constantly out of position and he had two rebounds in 15 minutes. But irrational exuberance dictate that I show a Thon highlight too. Here he is in a one-possession game in crunch time absolutely willing to put his body on the line to prevent a dunk that could have brought the house down and shifted the momentum. Good job, Thon.