No one is going to convince Josh Smith that he isn’t a jump shooter and that it’s better for him and his team to stick with close range shots. However, when it works, it’s a thing of beauty, and the Detroit Pistons can actually beat anyone, handing the Indiana Pacers their first home loss of the season with Smith leading the way.
For a second consecutive game, Smith suddenly finds his touch from the outside. He shot 13-of-29 from the field, scoring 30 points and grabbing 7 rebounds. Maybe it was facing Paul George and guarding him/being guarded by him that got the best out of Smith, but let’s not kid ourselves. There weren’t the best shooting percentages ever; it simply worked enough times, while Smith himself was having a great game on defense, to make it seem like this is Smith changing.
The real difference was the defense in the 101-96 win. The Pistons were better and stronger in the paint, winning the rebounding battle 55-40, grabbing 20 offensive rebounds and limiting the Pacers to only 43.2% from the field, doing an especially great job on Roy Hibbert (only 2-of-12) and George, who did score 17 points but was only 4-of-14 from the field.
We’re forming an identity ourselves. That has to be being a physical team, try to dominate the paint.
So many things to think about from one sentence Smith says. The Pistons have the potential to be one of the best interior teams in the NBA, but quite often are led in the wrong direction by Brandon Jennings (18 points on 4-of-13 from the field) and Smith, who keep the game disorganized, selfish and about shooting long 2’s instead on going to the team’s strengths, which is dominating the paint. Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe combined to score only 22 points, but they made it almost impossible to score against them.
The Pistons didn’t even needs a great night from Rodney Stuckey, who had only two points off the bench. Being bullied and outplayed physically isn’t something the Pacers were expecting, and it seemed to take a lot of confidence from them. David West was blocked by Josh Smith with less than a minute to go in order to keep the Pacers at bay, and the Pacers allowed 22 second-chance points, which were way too much for them to contend with on a terrible shooting night, unable to find a rhythm or get near the basket on a consistent level.
The Pacers fall to 20-4, but the Pistons are the more interesting team in this one, with wins over the Heat and the Pacers this season, but a record of 12-14 to show for it. As long as Maurice Cheeks continues to let Jennings and Smith do whatever they want on the floor, things will usually go the other way. This team isn’t very balanced, but it has enough talent to make the playoffs and maybe even get through a round in the East. However, for that to happen, it’s going to take either Josh Smith suddenly becoming an efficient long-range shooter while Drummond and Monroe mop up for him, or getting it through his head to play the way he’s meant to play.