12.20.2017 – Detroit Pistons at Dallas Mavericks

1st Quarter

  • Reggie Jackson, now comfortably settling into his role in the league as a mediocre point guard, comes out hot and gets buckets like he’s being guarded by a rookie who just missed two weeks with an injury. Funny how that works.
  • I actually like how Van Gundy has changed Drummond’s role in Detroit this season. For all the fretting about how conventional low-post big men are being run out of the league by the pace and space movement, SVG is actually looking at how these players can actually be integrated into a modern style. His answer so far is to get Drummond the ball in the high post, and allow the wings to move around him. His man can’t drop to the rim because he has the ball, and the guards cutting around him force open looks or switches. All that said, Drummond is still an easy guard for Dirk, relative to the other star bigs in the league right now.
  • If you have a chance to catch a Pistons game this season you should do so just for Tobias Harris. He’s still dealing with consistency issues, but he’s reliably aggressive and has figured out how to leverage his athleticism into playing a more versatile game.
  • Dennis Smith Jr., after missing seven (I think) games, looks understandably rusty. Fortunately he knows that too, and seems to be pumping the brakes while he feels the game out. Though, it doesn’t stop him from hitting a tough layup in traffic after a turnover. The layups in traffic after drawing traffic are the one element of his game I’ve been anticipating improvement on during the season, and so far it seems like he’s becoming more comfortable at the rim at a steady pace.
  • I understand the logic of starting Tolliver at the 4 (he’s big and can shoot), but asking him to guard Harrison Barnes out of the gate is a tough draw. Barnes is just to quick for him.
  • Wes is just bricking right now from outside. A few nights prior he blew a wide open look to tie the Phoenix game at the end of regulation, and shots still aren’t dropping tonight. Maybe when Seth Curry comes back Wes will have some competition for minutes and it will snap him out of his slump.
  • I’ve commented on it before, but it is such a unique look to have Devin Harris, who still plays with the speed and vision of a point guard, at the small forward position. It is basically a three-guard lineup when he’s on the floor and there’s hardly ever three guys on the other team who can cover a speedy ball handler who runs a great pick and roll.
  • Powell vs. Klebur: which guy would you rather keep, which guy has a higher trade value?
  • Dallas can’t get much of anything going offensively during the quarter, but Dirk hits a typical Dirk three pointer to end the quarter to keep the game close. Every time you wonder why he still gets the minutes he does, he reminds you.

2nd Quarter

  • Luke Kennard, a rookie who is playing at SF because he doesn’t quite have the strength to play at PF in the NBA, is getting destroyed by Harris, who presumably eats up slow white guys like Kennard every time he goes to the gym.
  • Wherever the Dirk statue goes up at the AAC, there needs to be a JJ statue nearby running a pick and roll with the Dirk statue. That play has been the tentpole of so many Mavericks teams, and is still somehow a 1+1=3 play to this day.
  • JJ and Ish Smith spend a good chunk of the quarter doing an “undersized but skilled point guard” dueling banjos routine.
  • Kyle Collinsworth hits his first NBA basket, and that’s about it. Good for him.
  • Drummond gets the ball in the post while being guarded by JJ and passes out, understanding that the only conclusion to posting up JJ is a charge call.
  • Mejri has a fantastic second quarter that is largely negated by an unfortunate series of calls by the refs. A handful of legitimate blocks are incorrectly called as fouls and goaltends, because the refs just can’t comprehend just how amazing Mejri actually is at protecting the rim.
  • Boban checks in so he can do his “I make your centers look like guards” circus act.
  • Barnes is aggressive this game, and it is working out for him. It seems like he has, slowly, become more judicious with his jumpers, limiting them to catch-and-shoots and other times where the defense is compromised. If his man has him squared up he’s looking to get by them, and it is working.
  • Carlisle finishes the half with the rare DSJ/JJ backcourt. Typically he’ll pair one of them with Yogi/Wes to cover both ends of the court, but he seems to have locked in on something, because the Mavs end up scoring an insane 43 points in the second quarter. DSJ particularly was balling out in the second after dusting off the cobwebs in the first, attacking his man with purpose and stepping into his shots with confidence. The roof almost blows off AAC at the end of the half as DSJ decides to slang some wood, perfectly executing a fake spin to pull up jumper to and-1 to J. Cole dance party.

3rd Quarter

  • Probably still in turbo mode from the second quarter, DSJ goes a little too hard in the paint and gets benched for it. Growing pains.
  • I’m not sure if Reggie Jackson is going to be the player he believed he was going to be when he forced his way out of OKC. The rudimentary parts are there, but it hasn’t ever seemed to add up to an above-average point guard. He would probably be excelling right now if he had been okay with taking whatever minutes Westbrook spends on the bench and maybe being a release-valve ball handler. I’m never going to judge somebody for betting on themselves but there just aren’t many examples of guys forcing their way out of winning situations and having it really work out.
  • Probably the best play of the game, Barnes has a sick kick-out to Wes for three. One of two assists for Barnes on the night, even though the defense collapses on him every time he gets the ball.
  • Reggie Bullock, who is starting in place of Avery Bradley (sad I didn’t get to watch him play, been a fan since he was at Texas) is still pretty raw. He is aggressive on defense, which you like, but is a little too aggressive. If you aren’t playing well enough to draw attention from the opposing team, the next best thing is to not draw any attention at all, but he repeatedly was overplaying passes, biting at pump fakes, and generally keeping it 100 when he needed to keep it around 50.
  • Dallas is really in a rhythm defensively, and even though they only scored 24 in the quarter (shrug emoji), they only allowed 13 (eggplant emoji), as Drummond sat with foul trouble and nobody else on Detroit’s roster could take it upon themselves to manufacture points. Yogi did a masterful job of keeping Ish from penetrating and opening things up for his teammates, and Mejri is looking more and more like a valuable rim protector that could really help a contender. I’m writing the “Mejri trade machine” column in my head as I watch him deter anybody that has the gall to dribble near the paint.
  • One subtle Barnes move that I love: whenever he receives a pass, Barnes always makes an effort to get one foot as deep into his man’s spot on the floor as possible, so that once he has the ball he can use that as his pivot foot in order to make that space his own. A few feet can have a tangible influence on a shot’s quality, and all those differences add up to a lot over the course of a game/season/career. It’s an easy assumption to make that he learned this from Dirk.

4th Quarter

Dallas ends the third quarter on a 22-5 run, up 23 entering the 4th, and the blowout is never in question. Dirk starts the fourth to gracefully guide the win home (which he does), so I just have a couple of general observations.

  • I’m just going off of this game, but if I’m a Pistons fan I’m very uncertain that Reggie should be starting over Ish. I’m sure the contract and perceived defensive ability are the reasons Reggie has the starting role locked down, but just having watched them a little bit I can already imagine a scenario where they are both better in each other’s roles. Ish could help the starters get off to a fast start, and will be much more inclined to make sure that the ball consistently gets to Harris and Drummond. Meanwhile, Reggie could come off the bench and have the freedom to do the Westbrook impersonation that he’s always wanted.
  • If Boban had any touch at all (on the court) he’d be unstoppable. He’s basically the opposite of players like Ish Smith and JJ Barea: an abundance of athleticism but no skill to compliment it. If you have a guy his size on your roster and he can’t get more than spot bench minutes, then it is probably safe to write him off as a productive basketball player and try to move on. I hate to say this too, I always assume anybody who played for Pop will make it, and if he could ever figure it out he would be mesmerizing to watch.
  • Hopefully now that the holidays are over I’ll be back in a regular writing routine. I got back from visiting family in San Antonio last night just in time to catch an epic fourth quarter in the win over the Raptors, and got home from work tonight just in time to catch an epic fourth quarter in the win over the Pacers (damn those early east coast tip-offs). I’ll probably crank out something short about those wins (the first back-to-back sweep of the season) soon. Happy Holidays Everybody!!!

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