KCP Breaks Out
Rookie scores 19, hits 4 triples as Pistons lose a squeaker to OKC
Sooner came in a hurry after halftime of Tuesday’s 79-75 loss to Oklahoma City as the rookie shooting guard out of Georgia scored 11 quick points to give the Pistons a double-digit lead from a halftime tie. He finished with 19 points and made 4 of 10 3-point shots, which included a desperation try at the buzzer with the Pistons trailing by four.
“It did feel good knocking down a couple of 3-pointers, a couple of easy layups and just knocking down jump shots,” he said. “It just felt good getting my offensive game coming.”
While he struggled to a 1 of 14 showing from behind the 3-point line over his first two games, Caldwell-Pope was urged to continue to take shots the offense is designed to produce by the coaching staff. His teammates, as well, had been in his ear to ignore the results and focus on the process.
“That’s what he does,” said Maz Trakh, the Maurice Cheeks assistant in charge of the Summer League team. “When guys are coming in to their first Summer League, there’s a little pressure because they want to show that where they were picked in the draft, they deserved. So he had a little pressure. I said to him before every game, ‘You know what I want you to do?’ And he said, ‘What?’ I said, ‘Shoot.’ I asked him today and he said, ‘Yeah, shoot.’ He’s got that question down, so I give him an A for the answer there.”
Caldwell-Pope got two more baskets in transition, one a dunk off a clean steal, and hit a two-point jumper while getting fouled. He also grabbed six rebounds, in line with the strong rebounding numbers he put up in college.
And while his defense and rebounding were eye-openers here, it’s his size and shooting range on top of his athleticism that made him so attractive to the Pistons with the No. 8 pick. Feeling the support of his teammates and coaches, he said, helped carry him through the rough spots.
“It’s nice,” he said. “I know the coaches have confidence in me. They know I can shoot the ball and I know I can shoot the ball. So it’s a matter of just confidence. I’ve just got to get it in my mind that if I miss or no matter how bad I’m shooting the ball, just keep shooting.”
Andre Drummond, who sat out Monday’s loss to Boston, went nearly 36 minutes and produced a double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds plus three assists. Second-rounder Peyton Siva ran the point for 25 minutes and put up 12 points with seven assists and just one turnover.
“I loved the way he played,” Trakh said. “I told him I like to seem him play with that Louisville swagger. He won a national championship. He’s played in Big East finals, NCAA finals. I said go out there and just play the game. Some of the plays he made and how he attacked the basket, that kid has a passion to play hard and I’m really happy the way he did it. He got guys the ball and defensively he did a real good job. He put a lot of pressure on their PGs the whole game. We’re really happy with his first three games so far.”
The Pistons led by 11 after three quarters after Caldwell-Pope’s explosion, but the fourth quarter Oklahoma City’s Reggie Jackson had was even better. He scored 18 straight Thunder points and put up 23 in the quarter and 35 for the game.
Trakh, who coached Jackson in Oklahoma City along with Cheeks, referenced the famous New York Yankee slugger of the same name in extolling Jackson’s brilliant flurry.
“Mr. October was hitting home runs from those threes,” he said. “He wasn’t going for singles; he was going for the home runs. I’m real happy for Reggie. I’ve been with Reggie for 2½ years and I know he’s capable of doing that. We blew a couple of coverages, but it didn’t matter. He made tough shots.”
Fueled by Jackson, the Thunder scored nearly half of their points in the fourth quarter, outscoring the Pistons 36-21. Trakh tipped his hat to Jackson, but had no quarrel with his team’s defense.
“Up until that point, we were great – not good, we were great – defensively. And they went to the last trick in their bag – all angle pick-and-roll screens with a hell of a player. The guy averaged 15 points a game in the playoffs and he was able to pull it out for them. But that’s what you’re supposed to do what Reggie did.”