‘A different brand of basketball’ leads to Pistons win at OKC in preseason debut

Ish Smith made a big three late in the game after missing his first five – and his teammates would’ve been mad at him if he hadn’t taken the shot.
Zach Beeker/NBAE/Getty Images
by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

OKLAHOMA CITY – If first impressions mean anything, the impression Dwane Casey has made on the Pistons in 10 days has been indelible.

Casey came in preaching “shot spectrum” – basically, take layups and high-percentage 3-point shots and eschew everything in between – and, yeah, the Pistons appear to have taken it to heart.

Of the 84 shots they attempted in Wednesday’s 97-91 preseason opening win over Oklahoma City, 79 of them were either triples or came inside the paint.

“That’s pretty good,” Ish Smith grinned. “That’s not bad. It’s a different brand of basketball that I’m sure Detroit is not used to seeing. It’ll probably be exciting for them to see it.”

The Pistons won without Blake Griffin and Reggie Jackson – All-Stars Russell Westbrook and Paul George sat for OKC – but with plenty of Andre Drummond, with impressive play from Casey’s cadre of wings and with a zealous adherence to the tenets of Casey’s offense.

The Pistons have heard a steady drumbeat of “shot spectrum” since well before training camp opened last week.

“From the day he got here,” Stanley Johnson grinned. “We always hear about shot spectrum. It’s actually the right way to play. I’ve never heard it put that way, but you put it in those terms and you understand what that is. It makes the game really easy and you get really good shots for your team. I thought we did a good job of doing that tonight.”

The Pistons were among the NBA’s top five 3-point shooting teams for accuracy last season but finished in the bottom half in attempts at 29 a game. They launched 37 against the Thunder, though their marksmanship was sketchy at just under 25 percent with nine makes.

But Casey arrived from Toronto with the reputation of encouraging shooters to continue to take them, believing that the numbers – the analytics – will eventually revert to the norm. And on a late possession with the Pistons nursing a 3-point lead, on a night the Pistons were shooting well below what the numbers said they should, Smith – who’d missed his first five 3-point attempts – drained one from the left wing to give the Pistons a six-point lead with 16 seconds left.

“If he didn’t shoot that, we all would’ve been mad at him,” Johnson said. “Those are the shots he’s been making all camp, all month. It wasn’t surprising. It was surprising he was missing the shots more than he made it.”

“He wants us to take ’em and just keep shooting ’em with confidence,” Smith said. “I think it’s huge when your teammates are telling you, ‘keep shooting it; keep shooting it.’ That’s the biggest thing. Be confident, let it ride.”

Casey played Drummond 34 minutes and Johnson 37, a little more than he anticipated. But with the game a little chippy – five technical fouls for a preseason opener – and Casey aware of his team’s 14-27 road record last season, he went for the win.

“The most important thing is fighting through adversity,” he said. “Our road record was atrocious last year. One thing you have to do on the road is fight through adversity, take punches, get back in the game and we did it twice. They threw a haymaker in the second half. We withstood it, stayed tough, stayed tough minded and finished the game.”

Drummond struggled with his free throws – he was 3 of 10, though the form looked nothing like it did two seasons ago and before that, his misses hitting the back rim and not drifting to one side or the other – and was 0 of 3 from the 3-point arc. But he was dominant regardless, finishing with 31 points and 16 rebounds and active with his hands and feet defensively.

“He’s an All-Star when he plays the way he did tonight, but you’ve got to do it each and every night to be among the elite,” Casey said. “I think he has the ability and the ceiling to get there, but – again – consistency is the key word.”

Johnson was Drummond’s worthy wing man, finishing with 14 points (3 of 7 from the 3-point arc), five rebounds and three assists. The wing group in general was strong with Glenn Robinson III (11 points, four boards in 15 minutes), Reggie Bullock (10 points) and Luke Kennard (five points) all flashing the complementary skills that give Casey a full array of options at their positions.

“It’s a good team win,” Smith said. “We played hard. Any win is a good win. Last year, we struggled on the road, so it’s good to start on a good note.”

Most strikingly, of course, was how quickly Casey has his team adhering to his gospel of shot selection, ball movement and quick decision making.

“It’s seeping in our head,” Smith said. “You can see it – the drive-kicks, the swinging. You can kind of see us playing together, moving the ball. Once we start getting confidence and keep taking those shots even when we miss, I think it’ll fall into place.”