2 games, 2 double-doubles: Sekou helps Pistons get over the hump at Golden State
Noah Graham (NBAE/Getty)
SAN FRANCISCO – Sekou Doumbouya’s first two NBA games have seen him matched up against Kawhi Leonard and Draymond Green. Don’t worry, kid. It gets easier from here. Next up is some guy named LeBron James.
Turning 19, as Doumbouya did 12 days ago, apparently has sped his learning curve. Thrust into action due to the injuries that have depleted the Pistons – Luke Kennard and Reggie Jackson from the backcourt, Blake Griffin and Markieff Morris from the frontcourt to create not just an opportunity for Doumbouya but a need for him – he responded with his second consecutive double-double in his second NBA start.
The Pistons don’t beat Golden State without Derrick Rose’s 22 points or Andre Drummond’s 18 rebounds or Bruce Brown’s defensive demeanor. But they wouldn’t have come away from the gleaming new Chase Center with the 111-104 win to snap a three-game losing streak without the contributions of their French teen, either.
“That’s my guy,” Brown beamed after Doumbouya scored 16 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. “He just plays hard, plays with energy. He’s playing his game out there. I tell him every game, just play your game, do what you’ve got to do, don’t think. And he does that.”
Casey played Doumbouya a team-high 38 minutes – “He earned every bit of it,” Casey said – and he finished a team-best plus-19, both solid indications of how well he performed. Doumbouya hit 6 of 10 shots, including 4 of 7 threes, and his triple to put the Pistons up 10 points with 6:43 remaining – after which he turned to the Golden State bench behind him as if to admonish them for leaving him open – was one of the game’s biggest.
Doumbouya added two steals, two assists and a blocked shot – highlight-reel fodder of Damion Lee’s layup attempt – that he followed with a transition triple and an index finger to his lips to silence the home crowd. His refusal to get rattled stood out. Dwane Casey said he got lost a few times when the Pistons went to a zone defense, but perhaps his most impressive achievement was not allowing Green to put his fingerprints on the game.
In fact, Green finished with just two points, six rebounds and three assists before getting tossed in the third quarter with consecutive technical fouls, perhaps due in part to his frustration at not overwhelming his youthful opponent.
Casey was clearly pleased with Doumbouya but also doing his best to prevent expectations from getting ahead of reality.
“Don’t want to put a lot of pressure on him,” Casey said. “He’s still developing. A 19-year-old kid. Don’t want to get too hyped up because – I promise you – that other side is coming. We’ve got to patient with that, too.”
The Pistons anticipate Morris, who’s missed the four games of the current road trip, to return in the fairly near future from a sprained foot and Griffin, who’s missed the last three games, could be back at any point, as well. But it’s probably fair to guess that Doumbouya’s time in the G League will be greatly curtailed or eliminated altogether.
“He’s still a growing kid,” Casey said. “He’s in there to learn, to develop, to contribute. Sekou did a solid job. Made some shots, which was great, but he’s still learning on the job.”
Casey’s wrinkle came when he opened the third quarter with Rose at point guard. After being outscored 108-59 during third quarters of losses to the Spurs, Jazz and Clippers to start the trip, Casey made the decision before tipoff to start Rose coming out of halftime.
The Pistons went on a 16-4 run around the Green ejection to open a 12-point lead, but saw it shrink to one when they went seven possessions without scoring late in the third quarter with Rose taking a breather. But they recovered and held serve as Drummond gave them 10 points and 10 rebounds in the second half (14 and 18 overall) despite fouling out.
Brown was also very good, thriving in his new role off the bench with Tim Frazier starting. He finished with 14 points, four rebounds, four assists and two steals. Svi Mykhailiuk added 14 points, hitting 4 of 9 triples.
But the night belonged to the NBA’s youngest player, who became the first Pistons teen since Drummond to record double-doubles in his first two starts.
“That’s great company to be in,” Drummond grinned. “He’s playing great. He’s playing with a lot of confidence. He’s a very good listener, a hell of an athlete and a great defender. Looking forward to continuing to play with him.”