Pistons get a glimpse of Griffin-Drummond-Jackson, better the 2nd time around

Reggie Jackson made his preseason debut but played less than 17 minutes due to a minutes restriction as the Pistons lost in overtime to Brooklyn.
Chris Schwegler/NBAE/Getty Images
by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

DETROIT – The sample sizes are preposterously tiny, but the trend, at least, was encouraging.

The Pistons – on the occasion of having Blake Griffin and Reggie Jackson for the first time in three preseason games and getting minutes together with Andre Drummond – played like strangers in the first four-plus minutes of the first quarter before Drummond departed with two fouls.

That started a snowball effect that saw them fall behind 20-6 and open the game on a 1 of 14 shooting skid.

“We were 0 for 8 in the paint at the rim,” Dwane Casey said. “Stuff that’s unusual. Blake misses the point-blank layup and shots we were going to definitely live with. A lot of positives, more positives than negatives.”

They got another four-plus-minute bite to start the second half before Jackson sat for the night, reaching his minutes limit at a little less than 17, and things were much smoother the second time around.

Drummond played free safety and broke up a Brooklyn lob pass that the Pistons converted into a transition 3-pointer, Reggie Bullock making the extra pass to hit Luke Kennard in the corner.

The next time down, Kennard returned the favor, hitting Bullock for a triple. A few possessions later, Griffin drew multiple defenders to him in the paint and kicked out to Jackson for another corner three. And then a Drummond block started a Griffin-led fast break in which Jackson and Kennard made quick decisions and Drummond wound up with a layup.

So, hooray for progress.

The Pistons have two more preseason games and it’s likely that Jackson will start to ratchet up his minutes slightly in anticipation of the Oct. 17 regular-season opener when Brooklyn returns to Little Caesars Arena. Will they get enough time together to feel comfortable in a new offensive system after the Griffin-Drummond-Jackson trio logged all of 30 minutes together last season?

“I think we’ll be fine,” Drummond said. “Practicing a lot. We’re always on the same team when we play with each other in practice, so it’s just building that chemistry and getting ourselves ready for the season. Knowing that these guys are healthy – Stanley’s (Johnson) healthy and Blake and Reggie are healthy. Those are our core guys that we need, so we’ll figure it out.”

Johnson, in fact, missed Monday’s game with a “messed-up toe,” said Casey, who also said the injury is “nothing major.”

With Johnson out, Langston Galloway played 36 minutes in the 110-108 overtime loss and scored 24 points, hitting 9 of 17 shots, 4 of 8 from the 3-point line.

Casey, encouraged by Brooklyn’s similar use of smaller lineups and eager to experiment with small-ball combinations, played for long stretches of each half with Drummond or Zaza Pachulia surrounded by four guards – some combination of Ish Smith, Galloway, Bullock, rookie Bruce Brown or camp invitee Zach Lofton. Glenn Robinson III spent all of his 23 minutes at power forward.

“We knew they were going to play with a small lineup, with a two as a four, so we matched them a little bit,” Casey said. “We tried a little bit with Henry (Ellenson) at the four against their small lineup and you’ve got to be able to get out there and guard those guys. With Blake being on a minutes restriction, it kind of kept us from him going at the five for a long period of time. But we’re going to see those types of lineups a lot in the Eastern Conference.”

The Pistons committed only seven turnovers and they wound up hitting 39.5 percent from the 3-point arc after making only 5 of 18 in the first half. But they couldn’t get much to fall around the rim, finishing a ghastly 19 of 52 in the paint to Brooklyn’s 30 of 47. Casey wasn’t discouraged by that, he said.

“I really liked the way our guys fought and competed,” he said. “I liked the fight. We got down big, kept fighting, kept fighting, kept fighting. That’s been our Achilles heel here. Adversity hits, we crumble. And tonight we didn’t do that and that’s what we’re building. As much as wins – and you want to win in these exhibitions – that’s what I wanted to see.”

Next time out, maybe he’ll see a little more of a Griffin-Drummond-Jackson lineup.

“I feel comfortable,” Jackson said after a six-point, two-assist, three-rebound outing. “Hopefully we can get a little more continuity together. We’ve been playing quite a bit together in practice and the way the game’s moving right now, it’s kind of just free flowing. So it’s not too hard, I guess. I’m not really worried about how much time we have together. I think we’ll figure it out.”