| The Detroit News
It’s not very often in the NBA that a team plays the same opponent in back-to-back games. During the pandemic, it will become more of the norm, as the league looks to reduce travel by playing a two-game mini-series instead of splitting up the individual matchups.
The preseason will provide a sneak peek, as the Pistons will face the New York Knicks at Little Caesars Arena for the second time in three days for Sunday’s second preseason game.
The rematch will feature some adjustments from Friday’s Knicks win, as the Pistons committed 22 turnovers and shot just 32.5% from the field and 26% on 3-pointers. In a typical season, coaches would move on to the next opponent, but one of the benefits of the new setup is that they can make adjustments and try them out on the same opponent without having to wait as long.
For coach Dwane Casey, the concern isn’t about the subpar shooting; it’s more about the lack of chemistry illustrated in the turnovers.
“A lot of our turnovers, guys are expecting guys to zig and they zag. It’s just getting that out of our systems and that’s going to be a process,” Casey said Saturday. “I will say this about the young guys: it’s a growth mentality with those guys continuing to grow and get better, to know each other.
“One great thing about all the young players: they did everything hard. If you do everything hard, whether it’s transition defense, pick-and-roll defense, or in the half-court, good things will happen. I’m not worried about the shooting; the shooting will come.”
Much of the focus from the first game was on rookie Killian Hayes, who immediately was inserted in the starting lineup. Hayes had seven turnovers and had some of the typical ups and downs that a rookie point guard might see in his debut.
Hayes said after Friday’s game that he didn’t want to rely on excuses, but Casey focused more on the positives and the adjustments that they can make in trying to continue Hayes’ development.
“He did a lot of good things. The turnovers are glaring, and you see them, but they didn’t bother me. That’s part of the growing process for him,” Casey said. “I promise you he’ll learn from them and he’s a quick learner. I was showing him video this morning and he saw it and talked about what he did wrong before it was even shown on the video.
“Those things are going to happen and once he gets to the length and quickness and speed of the NBA, it won’t take him long (to improve).”
Another concern was the lack of production from Jerami Grant (1-for-11 from the field) and Blake Griffin (3-of-11), and the two combined to go 2-of-12 from beyond the arc. Grant settled for some long jump shots, which Casey’s offensive philosophy tries to limit.
The numbers seemed to be an anomaly but after just one game, it’s all the data there is to analyze. More games and more reps will help to balance that out.
“He missed some open looks. He’s a career high-30s (percentage) 3-point shooter. That doesn’t bother me at all; he had good looks. My thing is taking the right shots,” Casey said. “We took the right shots and we want to get the corner 3’s up some more. We turned down some shots that we had that we normally take. We work on those shots every day, so take them.”
Getting the right mix
One of the bright spots for the Pistons on Friday was Svi Mykhailiuk, who went 4-of-8 on 3-pointers. Mykhailiuk, who shot a career-best 40% from beyond the arc last season, had 14 points in 16 minutes and was more aggressive in looking for his shot.
“I’ll have to find out more shots I can take because last year, we had a lot more shooters but year I had to work more to get open because last year, people knew I could shoot,” Mykhailiuk said Saturday. “This year, nobody is going to give me open looks, so it’s going to be kind of hard to get off the defender.”
The play of rookies Saddiq Bey (14 points) and Isaiah Stewart was another encouraging development, as Casey noted that they all played hard and didn’t look to be daunted by the moment.
That could lead to some different rotations and lineups for Sunday’s game. Casey hinted that there’s more
“We’ll do that and try to have different combinations, different people on the floor,” Casey said. “It’s continuing training camp, guys getting used to each other.”
Casey and his wife, Brenda, continued their “Very Merry Casey Christmas” initiative with a donation of $15,000 to Pure Heart House in Detroit. It’s the third year that the Caseys have supported the non-profit organization, which helps children of incarcerated parents.
The donation included Meijer gift cards, a big-screen TV, free uniforms and haircuts for youth and other toiletries and food needs.
Pistons vs. Knicks
Tip-off: 7 Sunday, Little Caesars Arena, Detroit
TV/radio: FSD/97.1 FM
Outlook: The Knicks won the preseason opener, 90-84, and will look for the preseason sweep. Coach Tom Thibodeau played his veterans for most of Friday’s game, so fatigue might become a factor in the second half.