Pistons without Johnson for win over Spurs
Detroit — The injuries just keep coming for the Pistons.
Already down three rotation players, the Pistons added one to the list, with reserve forward Stanley Johnson missing Saturday’s game against the San Antonio Spurs because of a strained hip flexor.
Johnson missed three games in early November because of back issues and since then, he hasn’t looked to be playing at 100 percent. Early indications are that the injury isn’t serious, but it’s another set of minutes the reserves have to fill.
The Pistons already are without Reggie Jackson (sprained ankle), Avery Bradley (groin) and Jon Leuer (sprained ankle) — three main cogs of their rotation — who have missed multiple games. Minus Jackson, the Pistons had to dip into their reserve pool, bringing Luis Montero from the Grand Rapids Drive to ensure they had 12 healthy players.
“We’ll see what happens in terms of matchups. With Avery, Stanley, Reggie — and Jon’s been out forever — that’s three of our better defensive players,” Van Gundy said before Saturday’s matchup with the Spurs. “What we really need is some guys who haven’t had to play primary scorers — they’re going to have to step up and guard better people.”
That included having some smaller three-guard lineups, with another two-way player from Grand Rapids, Dwight Buycks, playing some point guard, moving Langston Galloway back to backup shooting guard and rookie Luke Kennard in a three-guard lineup.
Playing the Spurs also caused another lineup change: Anthony Tolliver started, matching up with Spurs big man LaMarcus Aldridge, moving Tobias Harris to small forward and Kennard to the second unit.
It all worked out, as the Pistons held the combination of Aldridge and Kawhi Leonard to 33 points on 10-of-26 shooting. The rest of the Spurs starters totaled 18 points.
It’s a healthy sample size for Reggie Bullock, who is starting to blossom in his role in the starting lineup. In eight games, he’s averaging 11.6 points, shooting 59 percent from the field and 47 percent on 3-pointers, in about 29 minutes per game.
Van Gundy has been confident that Bullock can help out with his varied skill set, but he’s knocking down open shots and providing more offensive options while playing in the starting unit.
He had a career-best 22 points against the Spurs — and more importantly, played good defense on Leonard, who managed 18 points on 4-of-11 shooting. Bullock’s thrived with the opportunity and the rest of the reserves, including Luke Kennard, who had a career-high 20 points.
Jackson was back at Little Caesars Arena, in the first home game since he suffered the grade-3 ankle sprain in the win over the Indiana Pacers on Tuesday. Jackson sat behind the Pistons bench in street clothes, wearing a walking boot and using crutches.
The timeline for his recovery remains at 6-8 weeks, when he’ll be re-examined. Jackson has swelling in the foot, which should take about two weeks to subside. After that, he can begin the rehab process.
The initial fear was that he had suffered a broken ankle when he landed on Pacers center Myles Turner’s heel, but a grade-3 sprain still is the highest level.
Jackson was in the locker room after the game, in good spirits and optimistic about heading into rehabilitation to get back to playing, potentially in late February or early March.