Three quick observations from Sunday night’s 103-90 win over the Memphis Grizzlies at FedEx Forum
SLAM DUNK – The first order of business for the Pistons when free agency opens will be taking care of business with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Their situation at shooting guard gets a little complicated, though, with not only Caldwell-Pope an unrestricted free agent but backup Reggie Bullock headed for the same status. If the Pistons don’t come to a quick agreement with Caldwell-Pope, they run some risk of losing Bullock to an offer sheet while the uncertainty of Caldwell-Pope’s contract hangs over their head. Given luxury-tax implications, it might be difficult for the Pistons to keep both players. But Bullock, who drew a rare start, showed his value in the comeback win at Memphis, hitting 4 of 7 3-point shots. Another option at shooting guard, Darrun Hilliard, also contributed from the perimeter, finishing with 13 points and hitting 3 of 5 from the 3-point arc. The Pistons will have a decision to make on Hilliard, as well, with them holding a team option on the third year of his rookie contract. Hilliard was part of a bench that scored 35 of its 52 points in the second half when the Pistons outscored Memphis 53-31. The Pistons, officially eliminated from the playoffs while idle on Saturday when Charlotte lost, have won two straight against Western Conference playoff teams on the road.
FREE THROW – With Stan Van Gundy intent on giving playing time to Boban Marjanovic, Henry Ellenson and Stanley Johnson over the season’s final four games, one or two of his regular rotation fixtures will sit or see their minutes scaled back. On Friday, it was Jon Leuer who sat out. Leuer was back in the starting lineup at Memphis and Tobias Harris started opposite him – they’ve essentially shared power forward most of the season – as Van Gundy wanted to give Harris more time at small forward. That set of circumstances meant both Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Marcus Morris sat out the game. It might be Tobias Harris, who scored 12 points in the win at Memphis, who sits in Monday’s finale for The Palace to continue allowing Ellenson to soak up late-season experience. Ellenson again struggled to knock down shots – he was 1 of 8 from the 3-point line in a 15-point outing at Houston on Friday in his first career start – but heated up with three second-half triples to finish with nine points and nine rebounds.
3-POINTER – The thing that stands between Boban Marjanovic and moving completely into Aron Baynes’ role next season as Andre Drummond’s full-time backup is his ability to defend the pick and roll and lateral movement in general. Stan Van Gundy says Marjanovic has improved in that area by leaps and bounds over the course of the season and it was evident in his 27-point, 12-rebounding outing in Friday’s win at Houston. “He’s really worked on it. He works every single day,” Van Gundy said. “He does a lot of extra work on his own. I thought he was a lot better the other night covering ground, so that’s all a good thing.” Marjanovic had another strong game in the win with 14 points and 10 boards in 23 minutes, hitting 4 of 6 shots and getting to the line to hit 6 of 7. A second concern of Van Gundy’s that Marjanovic has little to no control over is the abuse he takes in the post offensively. “That’s been a problem for big guys in this league for a long time now,” he said. “You can’t as much as breathe on a guy on the perimeter, but inside you can beat the crap out of guys. It’s not just with him, (but) it’s pronounced with him because he’s so big. Boban doesn’t complain. He’s used to think. I think it was the same way in Europe.”