The Pistons hit the road for their fourth preseason game, their first away from Little Caesars Arena this season. Facing the Toronto Raptors, the Pistons got Andre Drummond back, after he missed the last two games because of conjunctivitis, plus Reggie Jackson played for the second straight night, showing he was over his groin soreness and the knee tendinitis issues are becoming less of a worry.
The Raptors took advantage of the Pistons being on a back-to-back, surging to a 10-point lead at halftime and cruising in the second half to a 116-94 blowout on Tuesday night. The Pistons fell to 2-2 and finish the preseason on Friday night at Milwaukee.
Here are five takeaways from Tuesday’s loss to the Raptors:
■ Dre and Reggie: Coach Stan Van Gundy has lamented the various injuries and maladies in the preseason and hasn’t been able to get a look at his core rotation of players. Having both Drummond and Jackson together for the first time didn’t go so well, with Drummond accounting for 14 points and 11 rebounds and Jackson six points and two assists. The numbers don’t matter as much as the eye test — and their chemistry in the pick-and-roll didn’t seem to be there in the early going. That will develop with more game time and reps in practice, but it’s so critical because it’s what the entire offense is built on, with the two foundational players.
On the bright side, Drummond was 6-of-6 from the free-throw line, which makes him 12-of-14 in two preseason games. It’s still a small sample size, but it’ll be worth monitoring as the season progresses and he gets more attempts, especially under more pressure situations.
■ The Ish meter: Ish Smith continues to impress in the preseason. After posting 14 points and nine assists on Monday, he picked it up a notch, with 22 points and eight assists against the Raptors. He looks to be in midseason form already, getting to the basket and finding teammates in spots where they can succeed. He likely won’t be needed in a starting role like he was last season, but he’s turning into a valuable piece for the Pistons, who can be counted upon in whatever manner Van Gundy wants to use him. His pushing the pace in transition bails the Pistons out of their doldrums all too often, so he’ll find more minutes when things go bad.
■ Stanley from 3: Stanley Johnson hasn’t been known for his 3-point shooting — especially last season, when he knocked down just 29 percent of his attempts. He’s been very solid with his shot selection in the preseason, but also has been effective from the perimeter, going 2-of-4 from 3-point range on Tuesday. He’ll get the lion’s share of the minutes at small forward, but if he takes better shots and he reduces the traveling turnovers, he can greatly increase his value and impact among that starting group.
■ Where’s the defense?: The Raptors seemed to get whatever shot they wanted — especially 3-pointers from the corners. They didn’t seem to have an answer for Jonas Valanciunas (18 points and 11 rebounds) or C.J. Miles (19 points) off the bench. The Raptors shot 35 percent from 3, which tapered off in the second half. Defense also was a big concern on Monday night, against the short-handed Pacers. Van Gundy has been disappointed with the defensive intensity for most of the preseason, so they’ll have one more game to get things straight.
■ Galloway’s way: Langston Galloway had his best game of the preseason, with 16 points and two rebounds. He hit a pair of 3-pointers in the first half to keep the Raptors from pulling away. His role isn’t yet clear, but it seems he’ll get more minutes as the backup shooting guard and also play some point guard in certain situations. He provides good outside shooting and a veteran presence, to help balance what rookie Luke Kennard brings.