ORLANDO, Fla. – Fans might be a little surprised to hear the utterances from Stan Van Gundy early Tuesday evening.
With Pistons swingman Stanley Johnson suffering through a horrendous shooting week at the Orlando Pro Summer League, the president-coach gave Johnson’s play a big thumbs up.
That’s because while the shooting percentages are bad, Johnson has mostly kept to the lesson plan of reworking his shot and focusing on making plays with his left hand.
“I think he’s doing exactly what he should be doing here in summer league, just what we talked about,” Van Gundy said after the Pistons moved to 3-0 with an 80-76 victory over the Indiana Pacers.
“He’s had a lot of chances where he could have just driven the ball to his right hand and scored, but you can see him almost consciously trying to get to his left hand right now, which is probably taking him a little out of his rhythm, but it’s good stuff for him to work on.”
Johnson probably had to remind himself of the larger picture several times Tuesday.
He was mired in a nightmarish 5-for-17 shooting performance and had missed nine straight three-pointers over the course of the last two games.
His F-bombs were audible after missed shots and turnovers. He is now shooting 27.3% for the week.
But he delivered down the stretch.
The Pacers (1-2) erased an eight-point deficit to take a 71-69 lead with 2:09 remaining.
The ball was put in Johnson’s hands in a pick-and-roll, and the defender went under the screen.
Johnson didn’t hesitate.
The Pistons’ 72-71 lead was short-lived, as Glenn Robinson III (Michigan) split two free throws to tie the game at 72.
After a Pistons’ offensive foul, Georges Niang’s two free throws gave the Pacers a 74-72 lead with 1:14 remaining.
The Pistons repeated Johnson’s pick-and-roll action, and the defender went under the screen once again.
Johnson’s three-pointer gave the Pistons a 75-74 lead with 55.1 seconds left.
“I think he’ll see when (shooting coach Dave Hopla) shows him film (today), he’ll see what the difference was in a lot of those earlier shots and the last two in terms of his extension and follow-through,” Van Gundy said. “He was short-arming a lot of balls before and his shot was flat and then he’s going to see those last two, getting the ball up in the air.”
Robinson knocked down a midrange jumper with 41.7 seconds left to give the Pacers a 76-75 lead.
But the Pistons ran pick-and-roll once again, and Johnson found center Kaleb Tarczewski for an easy layup and the winning basket with 23 seconds left.
Johnson finished with 16 points, five rebounds, four steals and three assists.
The finish put Johnson in a better mood. He just started working on the changes six weeks ago and this week is the first time he’s tried them in game action.
“A lot of this stuff in drills and stuff is easier to come off pick-and-rolls and knock shots down when you know you got extra shots and it’s a drill, but in a game, guys are flying and you’re also trying to make reads and passes,” Johnson said. “It’s harder to make shots because you’re trying to decide when to shoot and not to shoot.
“When you’re in a drill, you already know you’re shooting so you’re just focusing on getting your elbow up and getting it through.”
Rookie Henry Ellenson finished with 14 points and five rebounds for the Pistons, who now have 21.5 points for second-place in the standings.