Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy discusses 107-97 preseason victory over Pacers. Rod Beard
Detroit — In the preseason, there’s generally some improvisation with the lineups, as player get some rest and coaches need to see more of the playing rotation, to figure out how things are going to work in the regular season.
The Pistons’ third exhibition game gave coach Stan Van Gundy an opportunity to rest a few of his starters and get a glimpse at a few role players on Monday night. Because the Indiana Pacers rested most of their starters, Van Gundy gave forwards Tobias Harris and Jon Leuer the night off.
Even with those alternate rotations, the Pistons struggled out of the gate, but rallied in the third quarter — with a 36-24 surge — to erase a double-digit deficit and take a 107-97 win over the Pacers at Little Caesars Arena.
The Pistons improved to 2-1 in the preseason, ahead of Tuesday’s back-to-back in Toronto. Here are five quick takeaways from Monday night’s victory:
Pistons guard Reggie Jackson discusses playing in his first game in the preseason Monday against the Pacers. He finished with 14 points. Rod Beard
■ Reggie’s return: Reggie Jackson played in his first game since he was shut down and missed the final nine games of last regular season. Jackson seemed to regain his explosive first step and ability to maneuver in the pick-and-roll, which had left him last year because of knee tendinitis. He finished with 14 points and six assists in 26 minutes and looked to be getting back to his familiar form. It may take a few more games to get his wind back, but seeing him attack the basket and move quickly and comfortably to the rim was what Van Gundy wanted in Jackson’s first outing.
“I thought he made good plays in his pick-and-roll game, particularly in the second half,” Van Gundy said. “In the first half, he didn’t ever get into a good rhythm.
“He started the game well defensively and then fatigue set in. he just hasn’t played a lot of basketball.”
■ Boban time: With Andre Drummond out (conjunctivitis) and Leuer resting, Boban Marjanovic got some extended minutes, getting the start and playing 21 minutes. He responded with 14 points and five rebounds, in a favorable matchup with the Pacers’ Al Jefferson. Marjanovic was slated to be the backup center in the regular season, but Van Gundy could elect to use Leuer as a stretch center or Moreland, depending on the matchups. Marjanovic struggled with some of the defensive matchups and moving his feet to guard smaller players coming in the paint, but that’s been a consistent issue in his career.
■ The 4 spot: Van Gundy will have some tough decisions to make about the rotation of power forwards. He has said that Henry Ellenson has been one of the most consistent performer in training camp, but he struggled a bit Monday, getting just nine points and four rebounds, in the starting role, with his defense continuing to be a concern. Anthony Tolliver (13 points) was impressive again, with some timely 3-pointers and hustle plays. Harris looks to have the edge at the starting spot, but everything after that will be a tough call.
“(Tolliver) is good but Henry’s doing the same thing; Tobias has played well and Jon has played well,” Van Gundy said. “Those four guys have all played very, very well. That’s a good problem to have. It won’t be easy to figure out, but I’m happy with all of them.”
■ Bullish on Bullock: Reggie Bullock saw his first action of the preseason on Monday night — and absolutely delivered, with 13 points, three rebounds and four assists in 23 minutes. Beyond the normal back-screens, Bullock also was hot from the outside, nailing three 3-pointers and playing some solid defense. He could provide some solid depth as the backup small forward behind Stanley Johnson — that is, after he’s done serving his five-game suspension for violating the NBA’s substance-abuse policy.
“I thought he was great. He really changed the game,” Van Gundy said. “His ball pressure defensively was great; he made shots and ran the floor. He was terrific.”
■ Depth, no issue: While the bench got a good workout, there are plenty of questions about how Van Gundy will trim the rotation. Jackson, Avery Bradley, Stanley Johnson, Tobias Harris and Drummond look to be the starters, with Ish Smith and Marjanovic pretty good bets as the backups. The other two or three playing spots could be up for grabs, with Luke Kennard, Henry Ellenson, Langston Galloway, Leuer and Tolliver all in the mix. There could be some mixing and matching based on matchups, but that will be part of the suspense of the last two preseason games — both on the road, at Toronto on Tuesday and at Milwaukee on Friday.