Detroit Pistons: Tobias Harris, defense fuel opening night win

DETROIT, MI - OCTOBER 18: Henry Ellenson
DETROIT, MI - OCTOBER 18: Henry Ellenson /

It was big opening night in downtown Detroit. The Detroit Pistons found an aggressive defense and key scoring from Tobias Harris to start the season with a victory.

With a lot of hype surrounding the Detroit Pistons moving back to downtown Detroit, there was some uncertainty and questions around Stan Van Gundy’s team. It was not a perfect game, but the Pistons show they might be an elite defensive team. The offense is still inconsistent but with a victory in game one, there was not much to complain about.

1. Biggest take away: The wing defense is phenomenal

Everyone loves watching great offense, but I enjoy excellent perimeter defense more than anything in basketball. Watching Avery Bradley and Stanley Johnson hound the Charlotte Hornets set the tone for the entire game. Johnson went 0-13 shooting, but you can see the impact he brings on the defensive end. With 4 steals, Johnson’s active hands and reach gave the Hornets fits.

Avery Bradley drew the assignment to guard Kemba Walker and responded well. Walker had 11 of his 24 points from the free throw line and only could get 13 shots off. It is not a secret, but Avery Bradley is an elite defender at the guard spot. I also like what Langston Galloway brings defensively. He runs around screens and does not lose his man.

2. Player of the game: Tobias Harris

I will admit a little bias towards Tobias Harris, who played for the Tennessee Volunteers (my favorite college team). Despite that, Harris the best offensive player on the Detroit Pistons. With a monster first quarter (17 points), Harris was the high scorer finishing with 27 points. Harris set the tone and the pace of the game for the Pistons and I love to see 4-7 from the long line.

It looks to me that there were more designed plays for Harris. Whether that was a product of this one game or a long-term plan by Stan Van Gundy, it felt more geared towards Harris’ abilities rather than the Jackson/Drummond pick and roll. Harris had mismatches all night, so this was a nice change of pace.

3. Stat of the night: 17 turnovers by the Hornets

Yes, I agree that the Charlotte Horners were sloppy with the basketball and did not value the basketball. On the other hand, the Pistons deserve credit for the aggressiveness on defense. With Van Gundy employing a more ambitious defense, this led to more deflections and outlets for fastbreak points.

The firepower for an elite offense will not be there. The overall talent cannot create a Cleveland Cavaliers or Golden State Warriors type system. Be that as it may, the Pistons do have the makings of a top ten defense. They are long and aggressive, and if Drummond shows the willingness to protect the rim, the Pistons defense will only get better.

Overall, the Pistons had a fine game at home to defeat Charlotte. The Hornets shot 17 more free throws and held even in rebounding.  Considering Avery Bradley and Andre Drummond played 45 combined minutes, the first game was a success. Going 9-26 from 3 is below average and needs improvement, but the defense is locked and loaded. I like the bench unit and the pace they set.

Next: 3 reasons to expect a Pistons return to the playoffs

Also, shout out to Henry Ellenson for a good night with 13 points and 4 rebounds. With the next two games on the road (back to back Friday and Saturday), this was an important game to start the season right.