Detroit Pistons: The Day After Hawks observations

Killian Hayes #7 of the Detroit Pistons (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
Killian Hayes #7 of the Detroit Pistons (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) /

Without Blake Griffin and Derrick Rose, the Detroit Pistons were supposed to get scorched by the Atlanta Hawks. That did not happen. After sleeping on it, here are the day after observations on a wild contest.

A Detroit Pistons existential question (do not get many of these in basketball articles):

If the Detroit Pistons cover the point spread, and the over, and their young core gets lots of playing time and look good; even though the other team scored more points, is it really a loss?


The Atlanta Hawks (3-0) won a shootout with the Detroit Pistons (0-3), 128-120, on Monday night in State Farm Arena in a contest where a lot of assumptions did not hold up.

If the Hawks’ Trae Young was not a perfect 15-for-15 on foul shots, and Rajon Rondo had maybe the best outside shooting night of his long career, it could have gotten real interesting at the end.

The Pistons entered the game ranked dead last in offense in the NBA, and proceeded to put up 120 points.

They did this without their top two offensive weapons, Blake Griffin and Derrick Rose, who were sitting back in Detroit, resting. They also were without backup center Jahlil Okafor, probably their best low-post scorer.

Being so shorthanded, coach Dwane Casey had no choice but to play his younger players, who mostly looked pretty good.

It was a weird, but very enjoyable, game.

The Pistons usually turn the ball over a lot, yet, without their best ballhandler, they really cut down on turnovers. Without two of their best rebounders in Griffin and Okafor, the Pistons won the rebounding battle.

Here is the Excellent, the Good, the Not So Good and the Really Not So Good day after observations on the game.

The Excellent

Josh Jackson: At this time last year, Jackson was playing in the G-League. After the game, coach Dwane Casey said he expected Jackson, going into the season, to be more of a defensive specialist. Well, the defensive specialist has turned into a scoring machine.

The 6-6 swingman poured in 27 points in just 28 minutes. He started at shooting guard and he shot very well, 11-for-19. It was not just the scoring but the variety of his game, three-pointers, drives, pull-ups,  that were so amazing. And he always plays good defense. For what he is being paid, Jackson looks like a steal so far.

Jerami Grant: Without Rose and Griffin, Grant knew there were going to be lot more shots available, and the team was going to need the $60 million man to make them. He did. Grant tied Jackson for team high-scoring honors with 27 points. A lot of his points came in the first three periods, when Detroit was in danger of getting blown out by a high-powered Hawks offense.

Pistons fighting spirit: It would have been very easy for Detroit to just thrown in the towel. With seven minutes, 43 seconds left, Atlanta held a 115-91 lead. Detroit was undermanned, knew they had a game the next day and the Hawks did not seem to be missing a shot.

Instead, the Pistons may have played their best defense of the season (OK, I realize that is not saying much), as the Hawks cooled off on offense. Detroit went on a 26-7 run and cut the margin to five going into the final minute. Wayne Ellington, one of its best shooters, missed a three-pointer with 35 seconds left that would have cut the deficit to four points.

Related Story. How will the Pistons look with Rose or Griffin?. light

The Good

Delon Wright: Taken out of the starting lineup because, with Rose out, there was no one to run point guard when Killian Hayes went to the bench, Wright was able to score 18 points in 21 minutes. Many of his points came on drives right into the teeth of the Atlanta defense.

His aggressiveness spilled over to the other players, who began looking for their shot more, as well. Defensively, Rajon Rondo and Trae Young did what they wanted basically, or he would have been in Excellent.

Killian Hayes: In this game, the 19-year-old rookie looked like a real point guard, not just some guy who dribbled the ball up and made the first pass. He scored 10 points on 4-for-12 shooting but, just that he was looking for his shot, was a good sign.

Also a good sign was that he only had two turnovers and a team-high eight assists. On the other end, he had to guard either Young or Rondo, a very tough task for a rookie in his third game. But, overall, definitely a good learning experience.

Saddiq Bey, Isaiah Stewart: I am lumping them in together because basically I am saying the same thing about them. A lot of promise shown for their first real NBA action.

Bey started and put up eight quick points in the first quarter. He only scored two more points the rest of the way, a consistency he will have to work, on as he made just 3 of 11 shots.

As for Stewart, I got tired just watching him. He never stops moving. The 6-9 center had eight rebounds (five of them offensive) in just 14 minutes. Against some good bigs like Clint Capela and John Collins, he held his own. Has to work on his finishing as, despite all the offensive rebounds, only had two points.

Pistons lack of turnovers: After suffering a flood of turnovers against Cleveland, Detroit only had eight total against Atlanta (which had 13 turnovers) and no individual had more than two. Considering the game was such a fast-paced affair, and they did not have Rose to handle the ball, that is shocking.

The Not So Good

Svi Mykhailiuk: Going against a Hawks team not known for its perimeter defense, the 6-6 Lithuanian should have had a field day. Instead, he was 1-for-6 from the field and missed all four of his three-point attempts. He also finished with a team worst minus-11.

Pistons perimeter defense: Atlanta does not have much of an inside game, but they do have a bunch of three-point shooters. When Rajon Rondo is looking like Steph Curry, you know someone is not getting a hand in his face. Over half of Atlanta’s shots were three-pointers and they made almost half of them (20-for-42).

The Really Not So Good

Pistons defensive intensity the first three quarters: Detroit scored 120 points, about 30 more than they had averaged (not counting overtimes) in the first two games. Yet, they still lost. Why? Atlanta basically did whatever they wanted on offense until about seven minutes were left in the game.

The Hawks have a lot of weapons and, if you do not play intense defense, they can pile up a lot of points. The fourth quarter is the only period they did not score 30 points. To actually win games, the Pistons need to play solid defense for four quarters.

Next. Three Takeaways From The Detroit Pistons Close Loss To The Hawks. dark

Final observation

There was a lot to like in this game, the Pistons spirit, the rookies looking like they belong, players stepping up without two of their top players. However, the reality is, they were never in a position to win it.

After three losses to start the season, it might be time for this team to experience a real victory. A struggling Golden State Warriors team is coming on Tuesday night and Detroit should be at full-strength for that one.