Stagnant offense dooms Jackson, Pistons vs. Hornets

Terry Foster
The Detroit News
Reggie Jackson drives around the Hornets' Jeremy Lin in the second quarter Wednesday night.

Auburn Hills – Point guard Reggie Jackson finished with 10 points and 11 assists during the Pistons' 99-94 exhibition loss to the Charlotte Hornets Wednesday night at the Palace.

But despite the double-digit assists, the ball didn't find the right man at the right time -- at least not enough to please coach Stan Van Gundy.

And the on-again off-again Pistons offense sputtered down the stretch as the Hornets (7-0) remained unbeaten and the Pistons (2-5) were left shaking their heads as they stalled again. The Pistons were outscored by the Hornets 29-18 in the fourth quarter.

“We go in spurts. We really do,” Van Gundy said. “Tonight we didn’t have that many good spurts of good ball movement. We had some. And they know. I will applaud from the sideline, even if they miss a shot, if they move the ball. But there were too many times we don’t and guys were trying to force the issue and look for themselves.

"We’ve got to look at that and we’ve got to find lineups that will play together and move the ball."

Jackson could not hit the broadside of a barn. He was 3-for-15 from the floor and missed all eight of his 3-point shots. Overall the Pistons were just 5-for-29 on 3-pointers (17 percent) and 34-of-89 from the field (38 percent).

Jackson must put his best foot forward every time he hits the floor because he is expected to make others better. Even though Van Gundy downplayed the shooting, because Jackson has shot well during the preseason, Jackson can't have many shooting nights like this or defenses will cheat inside and take away valuable penetration space in the lane.

“We got stagnant and the ball stayed on one side,” Jackson said. “We have to get better moving the ball, and that is moving our bodies.”

Jackson missed a 3-point shot with 1:56 remaining with the Pistons up one and he got trapped inside the lane and missed another errant shot. The Hornets responded with five straight points to go up 96-92.

The Pistons trailed 97-94 with 12 seconds remaining but Jackson missed another step-away 3-pointer, sealing the win for Charlotte.

“I got to make shots,” Jackson said.

Pistons rookie Stanley Johnson didn’t reach his goal of starting for the Pistons just yet. Coach Stan Van Gundy is going with veterans Marcus Morris and Ersan Ilyasova at the forward spots when the season begins Tuesday night in Atlanta.

Morris and Ilyasova were not on the floor during crunch time Wednesday but they would have been if it was a regular-season game. Johnson can be a spark off the bench, and he showed some early flashes on defense. Sometimes it is tough selling a rookie on defense, but Johnson earned accolades from that end of the floor in the first half.

Johnson made a couple first-half steals, leading to fastbreak opportunities for Johnson and his teammates. He capped a couple with dunks and was fouled while driving to the hoop a third time.

Johnson says that some of the knocks against him at the University of Arizona won’t apply in the pros. He is still trying to find his shooting touch, but Johnson has attacked the rim with gusto.

One of the knocks was that he does not finish well around the cup. But he's  done a fine job of that as a pro. However, he wasn’t nearly as good in the half-court game and finished with six points and was 2-for-7 from the field.

Right now Van Gundy is sticking with his surefire threesome of center Andre Drummond (21 points, 15 rebounds), Jackson and shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.

Caldwell-Pope twisted his left foot in the first quarter and was taken into the training room; X-rays were negative. He returned to the bench late in the third quarter but did not play. It is not known if he will play in Friday's final preseason game at The Palace, against Atlanta, but he is expected back for the season opener.

The Pistons need his scoring punch. KCP spent the first two years of his career trying to find himself. However, he has been one of the Pistons' best players and finished with eight points in just 10 minutes.

Drummond got in early foul trouble but stayed with 6-foot-11 center Al Jefferson, who often makes things difficult for the Pistons. On this night he was 5-of-15 shooting and had 17 points and six rebounds.

“In the fourth quarter I thought he let him catch the ball too easily,” Van Gundy said. “He was making him work early and late he was not making him work.”