For the first time in nine months, we had Detroit Pistons basketball.
Unfortunately, it looked much the same as it did in March, and Detroit never found its way in a 90-84 loss to the New York Knicks.
The first quarter was predictably sloppy, but Detroit was never quite able to correct the rust-induced errors leading to 22 turnovers. The main bright spot in the starting lineup was Blake Griffin, who scored nine points while adding seven rebounds and five assists. More importantly, Blake looked healthy and operated well on both ends of the floor with a new group of teammates.
Coming off the bench, Svi Myhailiuk and Saddiq Bey both made it clear that they belonged in the rotation, scoring 14 points apiece.
The Pistons lack of spacing was evident each time down the court. With only Svi as an obvious shooting threat, there was little room for anyone to operate in the middle of the floor. The result was a lot of passes into nonexistent windows, drives into awaiting defenders, and a slew of turnovers. When possessions did end in shot attempts, they only went in at a 32.5% clip.
Equally troubling were the struggles that plagued Detroit on the defensive end. A great deal of ball watching led to confused, missed rotations and too many high-percentage opportunities for the Knicks. Those issues extended to the boards, where New York out-worked the Pistons when the game was competitive, leading to numerous extra possessions.
Detroit’s young guys showed some fight and made the final score respectable, led by the efforts of Bey, Svi, and rookie big man Isaiah Stewart. The energetic center grabbed four rebounds in seven minutes and, while his performance wasn’t groundbreaking, he showed he was as tough as advertised. Stewart fought hard on the boards while competing with the Knicks’ starters like Mitchell Robinson and Julius Randle. If nothing else, he looked like the hard-nosed archetype that endears itself to Pistons fans across generations.
In that same vein, newcomer Jerami Grant played a brand of scrappy defense that, while not always perfect, created some needed chaos. His offensive performance was undeniably poor, (1-of-11 from the floor), but he had plenty of company among Pistons teammates who couldn’t seem to knock down a shot. What Grant was able to provide, however, was the type of positive energy that can lift overmatched defenses.
Among the starters, all eyes were on seventh overall pick Killian Hayes. The 19-year-old struggled taking care of the ball, coughing it up seven times. But, he showed flashes that made clear his understanding of the game surpasses his age. On several occasions, he found open shooters on passes that required some creativity while also making some good decisions in transition.
Hayes tried to do too much too often, but he also displayed the huge potential that made him a lottery pick when he played under control:
He missed all three of his shots from behind the arc, but did get some work in with fellow rookie Saddiq Bey on a good-looking attempt in the second quarter:
I like seeing Bey post up. Important for him to have multiple options offensively. Gets Killian a good shot just by leveraging his size. pic.twitter.com/70jt5VyGmY— Halbridious (@Halbridious) December 12, 2020
Defensively, Hayes did a lot of ball watching which got him in trouble, something that the Pistons coaching staff will certainly look to clean up in practice.
Across the board, there was both good and bad, as everyone expected. Unfortunately, the bad outweighed the good by a large margin. But this was the first preseason game after a long hiatus by a bunch of players who aren’t familiar with each other. The communication and chemistry will come with time. And there’s plenty to work on while that process unfolds.