Pistons roll past Pacers, but Jackson injury puts a damper on the celebration
Chris Schwegler (NBAE/Getty)
DETROIT – The Pistons got a 21-game sample size without Reggie Jackson last season and survived as well as they could have hoped. They’ll need to do it again now – though they hope it won’t be nearly that long.
But sprained ankles can be tricky things and you don’t have to look any farther than the current Pistons infirmary for a reminder. They expected Jon Leuer to miss about 10 days when he twisted his left ankle at Los Angeles on Oct. 31, but he’s still out and a return isn’t imminent.
Jackson’s right ankle sprain – X-rays taken Tuesday were negative with an MRI scheduled for Wednesday – sucked a good deal of the oxygen out of a fairly significant win Tuesday as the Pistons throttled division rival Indiana 107-83 to win the season series 3-1 over a team that’s been at their hip in the standings for the last few weeks. The win lifted the Pistons to 19-14, a half-game better than Indiana’s 19-15. The Pistons currently hold the No. 4 seed in the East with Washington and Indiana on their heels.
Jackson was playing no less than one of his best games of the season, registering 13 assists in 21 minutes. He had seven in less than eight minutes of the first quarter as the Pistons sprinted to a 38-15 lead late in the quarter behind Jackson’s passing and Tobias Harris’ torrid shooting. Harris scored 21 of his 30 in the quarter, hitting his first eight shots and missing only one – in just 11 attempts – for the game, including a 7 of 8 performance from the 3-point line.
“Whew. He was unbelievable,” Van Gundy said of Jackson. “What did he have in the first quarter? Eleven (assists) at halftime, 13 in 21 minutes? Incredible. Played great. Thirteen assists, one turnover. Pretty damn good.”
The Pistons will be comfortable with Smith as the starter, but what Van Gundy does for backup minutes is up in the air. Last season, the late addition of Beno Udrih proved critical as the Pistons went 11-10 despite playing 12 of their 21 games on the road while Jackson recovered from an October platelet-rich plasma injection in his right knee.
“Ish did a great job of taking over when Reggie went down last year,” said Andre Drummond, who outrebounded Indiana’s starters by more than double (18-8, the Pistons outrebounding Indiana 46-26) while scoring 21 points. “He won’t miss a beat.”
“We know as a team we have depth, but it’s going to be put to the test now,” Harris said. “We’re going to need guys to step up and be ready and make things happen.”
Van Gundy is likely to give Langston Galloway first crack at backup point guard minutes. His ability to play both backcourt spots led the front office to not sign a pure third point guard. Galloway has played relatively little at the position this season, though he filled in seamlessly in a win at Atlanta earlier this month when Smith played himself into foul trouble. Galloway said he’s been used more in practices at point guard, so he’s comfortable and ready.
“Coach normally rotates us in practice. He’ll have me and Reggie substitute in and out and sparingly in games I’ve played at point. Just go out there confidently and try to direct the team as best as possible. I’m just a small piece in the big scheme of things.”
The other option is Dwight Buycks, signed to a two-way contract over the off-season. He made his debut against Indiana, logging the final two minutes, when the Pistons had him on hand and active due to injuries to Leuer and Avery Bradley. Buycks, as a two-way player, is limited to 45 days with the Pistons. They would have the option to convert him to a standard contract. They could also shop for another point guard since the Pistons have an open roster spot. A third option is signing a player to a 10-day contract when that becomes available in early January.
“We’ll see as it goes,” Van Gundy said.
Harris admitted the Jackson injury – which came with less than six minutes left in the third quarter as the starters re-established dominance after Indiana chopped its deficit to eight in the second quarter before again trailing by 13 at halftime – wobbled the Pistons a bit.
“It did today, definitely. Especially when I saw his ankle. He was hopping off. It even looked swollen. He was playing such a good game up until that. But we’re just going to need him to get healthy and be ready when he comes back.”
Other than Harris, the Pistons really had a poor shooting night, which further speaks to their dominance. Take Harris’ 7 of 8 from the arc out of the equation and the Pistons shot 5 of 26 from three. But they dominated the boards and played suffocating defense, limiting Indiana leading scorer Victor Oladipo to a season-low 13 points.
“Our goal was to make him as uncomfortable as possible,” Drummond said. “Reggie Bullock did an excellent job of really getting into him and making it tough for him. On the pick and rolls, I got up into him and made sure he didn’t get any pull-up threes, so he had to shoot contested twos and contested layups.”
The Pistons hope Bradley, who missed his fifth game, will be ready to return from his hip/pelvic injury next week, but they’re likely looking at a minimum of two games without both starting guards. Six of their next eight games come on the road.
“That was tough to see my guy go down like that,” Drummond said. “He’ll be OK. It’s not as bad as we thought it was, but he just needs to rest and get himself together and he’ll be right back.”