Updated: Jan 3, 2021
It was a tough start to the week and there is no way to sugar coat it. Our late push against the Hawks fizzled before it could be completed and a stagnant four minutes in the 4th quarter cost a shot at beating the Warriors leaving us 0-4. The Pistons now have two days off to regroup before hosting the Celtics on Friday and then once again on Sunday. It is easy to point to the negatives that are obvious, two starters left with injuries, our FG% is really bad, and our schedule starts to get noticeably difficult. Let's instead, take some time to look at the positives that we can take away from the last two games.
1) Isaiah Stewart: With Griffin, Okafor, and Rose out against the Hawks minutes were available and opportunities were not squandered by the rookie Isaiah Stewart. As soon as he entered the game his energy was infectious, and his rebounding prowess was on display. He had six rebounds in his first nine minutes of NBA action ending with eight rebounds overall. Of those eight, five came at the offensive end and he changed the game and sparked the 2nd quarter run that made up the large deficit they were facing. Against the Warriors it was again much of the same, he just had a knack for always being where the ball was bouncing and got another seven boards. His selection at the 16th pick by the Pistons was largely panned, but early returns show otherwise. Out of high school he was the 3rd ranked player by ESPN and there is a chance that he was not used properly in college. He has quick feet on defense and rebounds with elbows like Bad Boy Rick Mahorn.
2) Jerami Grant: I need to be the first to acknowledge that I was skeptical of Jerami going into this season. I remember when Josh Smith wanted a "bigger role" and came to Detroit. In the last two games he has been nothing short of awesome. Through the last three games is averaging just over 27 points and playing solid perimeter defense. Against the Warriors he really showed maturity starting 2-12 from the field, but staying patient, he drove to the basket, got to the free throw line, and put together a great second half. He shot 7-9 on field goals and finished, for the second straight night, with 27 points. He does get a little out of control, but he has been better than ever so far and gives reason to believe that he can be a central part of an NBA offense.
3) Josh Jackson: The 2017 4th round pick had all but been expelled from the NBA, having played last season primarily on the Memphis G-League team, but is now finally starting to show his draft pedigree. He scored 27 against the Hawks and his perimeter defense was even more impressive. I remembered him at Kansas University and with the Phoenix Suns as mostly nonchalant. That is not how he is playing right now. His open court speed is surprising and was on display with his chase down block against the Cavs. He is shooting with confidence, even after missing a a few shots, he knows which circumstances will yield shooting opportunities and is seizing them. He is looking like he could be on the brink of a full on breakout season.
4) Saddiq Bey & Killian Hayes: Both rookies showed promise at points during the last two games. Bey seems always ready to shoot and while that led to an inefficient game against the Hawks, his confidence led to 11 points on 3-5 3PT shooting against the Warriors. Hayes finally broke double digits against the Hawks with 10 points to go along with eight assists. It was by far his best game. He left the Warriors game in the 3rd quarter with a sprained ankle, but he hadn't done much in his 17 minutes.
5) Rebounding & Depth: Mason Plumlee has been extremely consistent with his play thus far and that has led directly to our standing as the 5th best rebounding team. Jerami Grant, along with surprise Stewart, have been huge in helping us in this area as well. Last season, with league rebounding leader Andre Drummond, we finished as the 3rd worst rebounding team, so this has been quite the surprise and winning the rebounding battle can easily keep games competitive. Our depth has also been quite apparent and was on display against Atlanta. With a starter and two key reserves out, we were able to compete with the Hawks because of our bench. Bey has shown he is ready to contribute, Rose will still power an offensively competent unit, Delon Wright is steady, and our centers rebound. We should be able to compete during this strange season and random injuries (due to condensed schedule) and covid precaution could give us random W's going forward.
These next two games are against the Boston Celtics and are our first games versus a title contender. Kemba Walker is out with a knee injury but is backed up by seasoned veteran Jeff Teague who is more than capable of running an offense led by Jason Tatum and Jaylen Brown. I am hoping to split the back-to-back games at home, mostly because we need to figure out how to win. Our late game paralysis has cost us three games so far and we need to decide who we trust in the last five minutes of each game. Energy will be paramount, and I expect to see Jackson to continue to start and Stewart will get minutes to battle vet Tristan Thompson. We will get to see how he boards against a top-tier NBA rebounder.
Pistons Twitter Pulse: Every now and again I am going to quickly share what I have noticed on Pistons social media. Half of twitter thinks Hayes is a bust and half wants to take a tempered approach. People are very intrigued by Saddiq Bey. Christian Wood is the most mentioned person and it never makes the Pistons look good. I imagine #TradeBlake will start to trend soon. Isaiah Stewart is the darling of Pistons Twitter.
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