The Pistons pulled off a surprising victory Saturday, beating the Brooklyn Nets 113-109 in Detroit despite missing Blake Griffin and all three point guards on the roster. Who were the stand-outs?
“We should start with Bruce right? Guy was money all night.”
Bruce Brown Jr. had an excellent outing, but the numbers are a little bit generous to him in terms of “first game playing point-guard.” On the surface, 22 points and seven assists without a turnover seems like a Point God sort of night, and it wasn’t that. The Pistons largely kept things very simple for him (and Luke Kennard who also ran a lot of point) and even though he had no turnovers, his night was not without issues.
“Why you gotta rain on his parade man?”
Not raining on it. Bruce had an effective night, but everyone else has already talked about how great it was, so let’s roll it back a bit.
So for starters, even though he didn’t have any turnovers, his night was not without some poor decisions. Take this play for example:
Even tough Kyrie Irving gets hung all the way up on a screen (which happened a ton. Bruce owes several buckets last night to Kyrie’s total defensive apathy) and Bruce then draws the full attention of DeAndre Jordan, he doesn’t slip the pass to Drummond, which he could’ve likely done by either lob or bounce.
Instead he tries to jump from an ambitious distance right into Jordan, and once he gets in the air he realizes his mistake but it’s too late. Most importantly, even though this goes down as a missed shot and not a turnover, Jordan swats it away where Kyrie Irving (by virtue of loafing on defense) is in the perfect spot to pick it up and run. So even though this wasn’t actually a turnover, in practice it was equivalent to a live-ball turnover.
Even when it didn’t effectively result in a fast-break for the opponent, he struggled with some reads that he will have to pick up on if point-guard is really in the future for him.
Here Bruce gets the ball with effectively a 2-on-1 with Drummond already in the paint and he hesitates before puking up an ugly floater.
To be fair, Andre could’ve reacted quickly as well to help him out (which Andre did a good job of helping Bruce and Luke, just not on that play) but Bruce still takes his first dribbles right towards Andre instead of sprinting straight towards the hole in the defense.
This one is actually a bigger issue than the previous, because young/inexperienced ball handlers will always have issues with decision-making; it just comes with the territory. The key for Bruce is that he should be making all his mistakes at full-speed. If he is aggressive and sometimes bites off more than he can chew and gets swatted into the ethereal realm by a center, then so be it. This sort of indecision is the sort of thing that nothing good comes from.
Bruce also generally needs to just keep his head on a swivel, because there were a couple of passes he just outright missed. Watch Tony Snell pop wide open for a three and Bruce just not see him here.
So essentially, these all point to that the Pistons did all they could to make life easy for Bruce as a ball-handler. They had him do a lot of dribble hand-offs, Andre did a lot of the heavy lifting in facilitation, and when he was asked to create they basically told him to wait for Kyrie to die on a Drummond screen and run downhill.
This is still good! Even an overly simplified version of point-guard is really hard at the NBA level and the fact that Bruce (and Luke) were good enough for the Pistons to get away with it is a great sign.
Lastly, even though Bruce may have relied on his floater too much, floaters are incredibly tough shots to get efficient offense from, he showed flashes of it last season and it looks like it could be a real weapon.
That play is straight out of the floater-god Reggie Jackson’s playbook (get well soon please) and it is especially dangerous with a roll-man like Drummond. Those floaters, if Bruce can hit enough of them, force opposing bigs to take the extra step towards him that will start to open up lobs to Drummond far more easily. Those are tough shots, and he’s a little too predictable with putting them up whenever he’s forced left, but they could be huge for his game as a ball-handler.
“What else do you want to make me feel bad about?”
The Pistons gotta help Andre a little bit. There seem to be a few possessions every game where they just toss him a hand-grenade. Although Andre has been far better creating for himself this season, this is not what you want to do at the end of the shot-clock:
The ball finding Andre with three seconds on the clock when he’s standing outside the paint may be about the worst result the Pistons offense can generate. Please do not do this.
Also, when he gets the ball with plenty of time left and looks up to run a dribble hand-off or some other action with, someone, please, go help him.
That is not the shot the Pistons want Andre to be taking, but Andre wasn’t really trying to take it either. It would be nice if he tried harder to force his way inside when this happens, but still. When he spends several seconds looking for someone to do something and everyone stands there with confused looks on their faces you get what you get. Not to say Andre hasn’t been effective as a creator, because he has been. If he gets between his defender and the baseline it’s a wrap these days.
But as much fun as it is that Andre is actually owning fools with face-up moves, his offensive game is currently stretched pretty far. His efficiency has still been great, but he is turning it over at a really high rate.
On top of that, plays like the above will get onto opposing teams radars and scouting reports. Drummond is far more likely to settle for a hook shot if he’s forced to the middle of the floor, and teams will overplay him that way more and more unless he has a counter ready for it. Essentially, the Pistons offense is staying afloat without Blake Griffin and Reggie Jackson, but it is a balance that could tip pretty quickly if Drummond or Derrick Rose hit a cold spell. So the Pistons should do what they can to not stretch Andre’s offensive game more than they already have to.
“You didn’t have much positive to say about this game.”
Everyone has been gushing about it so much already that I figured you all could use a little bit of pumping the brakes. They will probably get blown out by the Knicks or something and I’ll find some positives then.