Pistons’ offensive surge tied to ball movement, shot selection – and the ball going in

Stanley Johnson’s second straight strong outing helped the Pistons roll to an easy win at Atlanta
Mark Sobhani (NBAE/Getty)
by Keith Langlois
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Keith Langlois
Sat 11/10/2018 3:03 PM
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Stanley Johnson’s second straight strong outing helped the Pistons roll to an easy win at Atlanta

HED: Pistons’ offensive surge tied to ball movement, shot selection – and the ball going in

By Keith Langlois

AUBURN HILLS – The two-week window to re-evaluate Luke Kenanrd’s shoulder injury has come and gone. It’ll be another week now, Dwane Casey said Saturday, before the medical team assesses Kennard’s recovery.

A week ago, that might have been panic-inducing for the Pistons. But after a 2-0 road trip punctuated by a rout of Atlanta in which the players manning Kennard’s positions were spectacular, the Pistons can afford magnanimous patience where Kennard’s recovery is concerned.

Kennard is one of a five-man group of wing players that also includes Reggie Bullock, Stanley Johnson, Glenn Robinson III and Langston Galloway. They combined to score 63 points and hit 14 of 28 3-pointers as the Pistons set season highs in 3-pointers made (20) and attempted (47) while amassing a season’s best 30 assists.

Galloway has scored 49 points over the last three games and shot 50 percent on 26 3-point shots. Johnson has scored 35 over his last two games and hit 7 of 15 triples. Robinson, who’s started the past three games, has 37 points over that span while hitting 5 of 12 from the arc. And Bullock came out of his early-season slump, complicated by a two-game injury absence, hitting 3 of 6 from three in a 13-point game at Atlanta.

Consider what happened a week ago at Philadelphia. With Bullock also hurt, missing the game with a sprained ankle, the threesome of Johnson, Robinson and Galloway combined for 19 points and made a single 3-pointer in seven attempts.

No wonder Blake Griffin was content to not take a shot during the season’s highest-scoring quarter when the Pistons scored 40 to take a 20-point lead over Atlanta after the first quarter. He compiled six first-quarter assists, finishing with nine, as seven teammates finished in double figures.

“He was willingly passing the ball out of double teams, out of blitzes and it really got us into a rhythm when he was kicking the ball out,” Casey said after Saturday’s practice. “Swing-swing passes were there. Our spacing was much better. But it all starts with the ball going in.”

Casey said the Pistons set a season-high for corner 3-point shots (16), the most coveted type for its shorter distance. One of those corner threes, made by Robinson, came on a no-look pass flung by Griffin as he was swarmed in the paint.

“What did he have? Six points? Not a lot of superstars would accept that,” Casey said. “Blake took what the game gave him. He’s one of the best facilitators (among) power forwards in the game and that play showed it.”

Griffin was undoubtedly relieved to see teammates shouldering the scoring burden after too many nights in the first three weeks of the season where it fell so heavily on his shoulders. Casey expects there to still be fits and starts in adapting to his offensive philosophy, but he saw clear signs of progress on the two-game road trip that produced wins at Orlando and Atlanta.

“Our shot selection was good,” he said. “We had more good threes than bad threes. Far more good threes, rhythm threes, good to great threes, than we’ve had all year.”

One other marker for Casey: the 375 passes he said the Pistons made at Atlanta, another season high.

“It’s contagious and it’s amazing how when you do that, it’s contagious on the other end,” he said. “That ball has energy. When people are touching it, when nobody cares who scores, it’s amazing how that ball moves.”