The Pistons finished 2-3 and the most important step forward may be getting healthy. Rod Beard, The Detroit News
East Lansing — The Pistons were the road team in a game in Michigan.
They seemed to be right at home from beyond the arc and flashed some of what coach Dwane Casey has been preaching all preseason about how the offense will work.
It started with Blake Griffin and quickly spread, as the Pistons cruised to a 129-110 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers at Breslin Center on Friday night. The Pistons finished the preseason 2-3, with a decisive win ahead of Wednesday’s regular-season opener.
Griffin finished with 29 points and five assists and Andre Drummond 21 points and 15 rebounds for the Pistons, who had 69 points in the first half.
“It’s important; it’s always nice to go into the regular season on the right foot and have a game where there’s more good than bad,” Griffin said. “At the end of the day, it’s nice to see the ball go through and get a win.”
The Pistons shot 51 percent from the field and 47 percent on 3-pointers, including four each by Ish Smith and Langston Galloway.
The reserves played well, accounting for 57 points and 12 3-pointers. Casey liked the effort and execution but didn’t want to read too much into a preseason game.
“We can’t read a lot into it, whether it’s a win or loss in the exhibition,” Casey said. “I like the vibe and play more than the 'W,' catching onto the offensive philosophy and defensively we did a better job. Even if we would have lost, I like the way we played.”
The Pistons capped their preseason with a 139-110 velictory over the Cavaliers at Breaking Center in East Lansing. Rod Beard, The Detroit News
The Pistons led 86-76 in the third quarter but the Cavs had an 11-2 spurt to pull within one.
Galloway (15 points) ended the run with a 3-pointer and 22 seconds later, he added a four-point play with another 3-pointer. Smith (16 points and nine assists) finished the quarter with a crossover and jumper for a 97-91 lead heading into the fourth.
That started a 14-0 run over the first four minutes of the period and the Pistons pulled away from there.
Here are some observations from the Pistons’ victory over the Cavs in the preseason finale:
The Pistons had struggled from beyond the 3-point arc for most of the preseason, with some odd shot selection and some looks that just didn’t fall. They turned things around Friday, going 10-for-18 (56 percent) in the first half, with two each from Reggie Jackson, Luke Kennard, Griffin and Jackson. Beyond the makes, they set up better looks by moving the ball around and creating the prime opportunities. The 35 points in the first quarter and 69 points at halftime were due to their improved drives-and-kicks and free-flowing offense, with Griffin getting going early and staying hot.
The shooting touch spread in the third quarter, as Galloway hit a 3-pointer with 48.1 seconds left, then another for a four-point play. Smith found Jackson for a 3-pointer to start the fourth, which fueled the 14-0 run bridging the third and fourth quarters.
The Pistons finished the game at 47 percent from 3-point range (21-for-45) in what was easily their best showing of the preseason.
While many fans will continue to question and sneer at Griffin’s contract, he showed Friday why he’s so valuable to the Pistons — with his versatility. Griffin handled the ball on the perimeter and facilitate, but started the game using his size and muscle to get in the paint for an easy lay-up over the Cavs’ Sam Dekker. For many power forwards, Griffin is going to be a severe mismatch, as was the case against Cleveland.
Griffin finished an efficient 11-of-17 from the field and was 3-of-4 on 3-pointers.
“I was getting to the rim but attacking the rim and leading to 3s and drive-draw-kick, guys are doing a better job of deciphering when to shoot, when to pump fake, when to drive and kick,” Griffin said. “I had more minutes tonight and didn’t end up playing them but it was my goal.”
Old Reggie, new Reggie
After an injury scare in Wednesday’s game, Jackson returned with some pep in his step. Jackson got off to a good start, with a pair of 3-pointers and a nifty lob to Drummond for an alley-oop in the first quarter. Jackson played 14 minutes in the first half, on his way to 25 minutes in the game, a nice increase in minutes to try to get Jackson prepared for the start of the season next week.
“The main guy right now is Reggie and making sure he’s back 100 percent because he’s a big part of what we want to do,” Casey said.
It’s the type of burst that the Pistons were looking for from Jackson, but they’ll also be looking for consistency into the second half. He hasn’t played more than 30 minutes in a game in the preseason so the next step in his progression will be increased minutes.
Aside from the groin issues, which seem not to be affecting Jackson, he has looked about as good as they could have expected in the preseason.
Smith had a standout performance, shooting 4-for-6 from 3-point range, controlling the pace with the ball and distributing well. He’s not known for his 3-point shooting, but he has worked all offseason on improving it and it’s starting to show.
“Ish did a special job tonight attacking the paint, getting in the paint and causing a problem and finding the right guy,” Casey said.
Smith had the second unit rolling at a fast pace and his own ability to hit helped push the others.
Smith brought the Breslin Center crowd to its feet with his highlight-reel double-crossover move on rookie Collin Sexton and hit the jumper to beat the buzzer heading into the fourth quarter. Smith finished 6-for-12 from the field and his nine assists were just the icing on a good night.
Despite his toe issues, Stanley Johnson was able to start and the starting group played well together, which is a good harbinger for the regular season. It’s likely going to be the Jackson, Reggie Bullock, Johnson, Griffin and Drummond who end up starting, but there's also a good bench unit, with Galloway seemingly solidly putting himself in line for playing time.
Casey played an ultra-small lineup with Jackson, Smith, Galloway, Kennard and Zaza Pachulia, showing a willingness to tinker and play to a shooting advantage if it’s available.
“We’ll look at it. All hands on deck. I want to put myself in a corner and say that’s what we’re going to do,” Casey said. “That lineup was pretty good. That’s where we took off. It’s going to be a different lineup for a different night and it’ll be personnel-driven. We have to make sure we’re ready for it.”