Beard: Josh Jackson shines but untimely turnovers doom Pistons in opening defeat
The Pistons lost the regular-season opener to the Minnesota Timberwolves, 111-101, after giving up a 16-6 run to finish the game. The Pistons played well for three-plus quarters, but the 10 second-half turnovers were their undoing.
Unlike the preseason, they had solid offense in the first half, with a 57-56 lead, but the couldn’t hit 3-pointers and the defense allowed the Timberwolves to get inside for open shots, plus hit some open outside looks.
Here are five observations from the loss:
►Josh Jackson is still good: As he showed in the preseason, when he was one of the Pistons’ best players, Jackson was solid again in the opener, with 19 points in 29 minutes, going 8-of-14 from the field and 3-of-7 from beyond the arc. Sure, many of his points came on breakaway dunks and easy lay-ins, but getting to those is something of the skill. He was out in the lanes in defensive transition and 3-pointers were timely and effective when they came. Some will call for Jackson to be inserted in the starting lineup, but he’s effective where he is, as a defensive complement off the bench to join Sekou Doumbouya and offer an outlet for Derrick Rose.
►Turnovers are still bad: Before the game, coach Dwane Casey was lamenting the Pistons’ turnover issues in the preseason, hoping that they could cut the number from the twenties down to maybe 15. The Pistons hit that number, but the timing of those turnovers was much more costly, including a slew of them in the fourth quarter, when the Timberwolves were surging. They got the lead behind a couple of turnovers on passes from Killian Hayes to Blake Griffin, which led to the rookie sitting out the last couple of minutes. The Pistons looked confused with the 2-3 zone and the lazy passes didn’t help.
►The big men: Although Mason Plumlee wasn’t an effective or efficient scorer in the preseason, he was both in the opener, going 7-of-8 from the field and chipping in 14 points. Add to that his eight rebounds and six assists and it was a solid Pistons debut for the big man. Casey had lauded Plumlee’s passing, but he showed an affinity for getting the ball in the right place at the right time and setting up easy baskets for teammates. That’s going to come in huge when there’s more cohesion among the starters. Jahlil Okafor also was effective, with eight points and seven rebounds in 15 minutes, though he got into some foul trouble, which limited his playing time.
►Birthday guy: Sekou Doumbouya, playing on his 20th birthday, had a solid game, with six points and nine rebounds in just 13 minutes. He had a nice transition dunk off a feed from Rose and although he missed both of his 3-point attempts, he was active around the rim and defensively. He didn’t play at all in the third quarter, which was more due to the rotations, it seemed, but he made strides over his up-and-down rookie season. He’ll continue to get playing time at both forward positions.
►The rotation: Casey said that he would trim down the rotation to maybe nine or 10 and that’s where he stuck, with the five starters and five reserves. It’s a solid group of 10, with a platoon at each position and then flexing some of the positions based on the matchups and blending some lineups with starters and reserves. There didn’t seem to be a need to go further into the bench and the situation didn’t call for it Wednesday, though it could in other games.