Three quick observations from Saturday night’s 111-107 win over the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden
1-COMEBACK KIDS – The Pistons have a few persistent issues – if three games can constitute a trend – so far. Giving up too many free throws is the big one. Over the first two games opponents shot 32 more foul shots than the Pistons. It was 27-5 in favor of the Knicks at one point in the third quarter and ended 31-15 – but it was only that close because Reggie Jackson hit four straight in the final seconds with the Knicks intentionally fouling. But, hey, a win is a win and that was pretty impressive, coming from 21 down in the second quarter to pull it out in the Knicks home opener. Tobias Harris scored 31 to counter an assault from New York’s Kristaps Porzingis and it was his spin move that left Porzingis flat-footed with 45 seconds left that put the Pistons up three. Andre Drummond then swatted Porzingis’ shot at the rim at the other end and Reggie Jackson’s two free throws with eight seconds left gave the Pistons a five-point cushion. A night after coming from 15 down in the fourth quarter to lead, only to lose, at Washington, the Pistons showed some fight to win their first back to back of the season after going a league-worst 3-14 last year. The Pistons closed the first half on a 15-7 run to make a 21-point deficit a little more manageable, then opened the third quarter on a 9-0 run to pull within four.
2-NIGHTMARE SCENARIO – Asked about Kristaps Porzingis before the game, Stan Van Gundy said, “He’s going to be a nightmare for years to come in this league.” Porzingis turned “going to be” to “is” in the first half, hitting his first seven shots – two from the 3-point line – and scoring 23 points on his way to a 33-point night. Van Gundy tried to disrupt Porzingis by putting Stanley Johnson, 8 inches shorter than the 7-foot-3 Latvian, to start the game. Johnson picked up two fouls before checking out midway through the first quarter, both coming on Porzingis three-point plays. The Pistons got him under control in the second half when he was guarded mostly by Anthony Tolliver. Porzingis finished 11 of 20 from the floor, going 3 for 10 in the second half. His tirle with a little more than five minutes left tied the score at 96 after the Pistons had taken a six-point lead and he split a pair of free throws with 1:51 to play to tie the score at 102.
3-ROTATION PUZZLE – It’s only three games, but the fact the Pistons have three different inactive players – first Anthony Tolliver, then Boban Marjanovic, finally Eric Moreland – speaks to the quandary Stan Van Gundy feels in piecing his rotation together. There’s a method to his selections, based on perceived needs before tipoff relative to the opponent’s roster, and Van Gundy designed the roster to give him those options. On the other hand, he’d like to get a little more clarity in the effectiveness of certain lineup combinations. Tolliver, who didn’t play in Friday’s loss at Washington after being inactive on opening night, got his first action late in the first half and then started the third quarter as the Pistons made their big push. Tolliver finished with nine points, four boards and two assists in 19 minutes and was the Pistons most effective defender on Porzingis. Pretty likely he’s going to be part of the mix now.