The Pistons have been hampered by minor injuries for the entire preseason and coach Stan Van Gundy has had to piece together lineups and rotations to try to get a sense of how he’s going to do things when the regular season begins on Wednesday.
In the preseason finale, Van Gundy had to make another adjustment, as Stanley Johnson sat out because of back tightness. That means the Pistons did not play any of their preseason games with all of their five starters active — and that’s vexing for Van Gundy, who will have to figure out his playing rotation and prep for the opener.
The preseason ended with the Pistons sustaining a 107-103 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday night at BMO Bradley Center.
Here are five takeaways from the preseason finale:
The new Drummond: Maybe it was the matchup against the Bucks’ tender center corps, but Drummond looked like an All-Star. He finished with 18 points, 22 rebounds and seven assists and was active on both ends of the court. The big highlight was a fadeaway jumper to beat the shot clock in the third quarter.
Add to that another good game at the free-throw line (4 for 6) raising his preseason total to 16-of-20 (80 percent) in his three preseason games.
A-very good start: Avery Bradley led the Pistons with 26 points in 29 minutes — and looked very smooth in doing it. He hit just two 3-pointers, and scored on a variety of drives, back-door cuts and jumpers inside the arc. He’s been a tough defender, but he was tough to defend on Friday — and that versatility will help the Pistons diversify their offense once the real games start.
Stress on D: The Pistons had a horrible defensive outing in their loss at Toronto on Tuesday — and this was just as bad, allowing the Bucks to make 9 of their first 18 attempts from beyond the 3-point line. Corner 3-pointers were the biggest issue in both cases, but the defensive closeouts weren’t effective, as the Bucks’ shooters were able to get whatever shots they wanted from beyond the arc. Van Gundy said the defensive switches and rotations were a focal point in the practices since, but there’s still plenty of work that needs to be done in that area.
Forward thinking: Tobias Harris scored 11 of his 13 points in the fourth quarter, as he moved to small forward to replace Johnson. He hit 3-of-4 from beyond the arc and added six rebounds but seemed to get lost at times in the offense. That’s part of what Van Gundy is looking to fix: what role everyone will have on the offensive end. Harris showed an affinity to score off the bench last season, which could be another quandary for Van Gundy to decide. Harris tweaked his ankle after going up for a dunk attempt against former Piston Joel Anthony, but finished the game.
Rotation questions: While Van Gundy got to see more from his starters, there are still plenty of question marks around the reserves. Reggie Bullock didn’t play, while Anthony Tolliver and Luke Kennard looked pretty good. Van Gundy will have tough decisions to make, with there likely being five players vying for three spots in the core rotation. No real decisions need to be made until Monday or Tuesday, but the next couple of practices could be critical in making those final choices.