Beef Stew and Hamidou: A 1-2 punch that evokes Pistons history stands out in loss to Blazers

Hamidou Diallo
Hamidou Diallo had his second straight dynamic outing for the Pistons, finishing with 19 points and 7 rebounds in 26 minutes off the bench
Chris Schwegler (NBAE/Getty)
by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

Bing and Lanier. Isiah and Joe D. Rip and Chauncey.

The Pistons have had their fair share of potent 1-2 punches over their rich history. Maybe the next dynamic duo is Beef Stew and Hamidou.

That would be Isaiah Stewart and Hamidou Diallo and if their performance can live up to their alliteration, the marketing campaign will write itself. One thing they both possess in abundance – a quality that Pistons fans with any sense of history will adore – is a take-no-prisoners approach from one baseline to the other.

They were part of a Pistons bench unit that scored more than half – 51 of 101 – of the Pistons points in their 124-101 loss to Portland, a game that was a lot closer than the final score. With five minutes to play, it was still a 10-point game.

Ultimately, the Pistons just didn’t have enough firepower to compete with one of the NBA’s most potent offenses on a night they were without Wayne Ellington’s 3-point shot – and on a night Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum combined to score 37 of their 57 points in the second half, Lillard banking 23 of his 33 after halftime. Jerami Grant scored 30 for the Pistons and Mason Plumlee added 18, but the three other starters combined for two points and Saddiq Bey and Josh Jackson combined to go 0 of 13.

“We couldn’t buy one,” Dwane Casey said after the Pistons shot 9 of 27 from the 3-point line while Portland drained 16 of 30. “We had some good looks and they continue to do it to the rest of the league – 53 percent from three and they’ve got a team full of ’em. You can’t let that deflate you. You’ve got to continue to compete. I thought it deflated us a little when they continued to make them.”

Good luck deflating Stewart and Diallo, though, two guys who go full speed ahead on every possession and are certain to become Detroit folk heroes if this era of Pistons basketball can wake up the echoes of the two championship eras. They play with the type of competitive edge that epitomizes the type of player general manager Troy Weaver seeks and Dwane Casey covets.

Diallo debuted for the Pistons last Friday after being idled for more than a month with a groin injury and after knocking off that rust he’s been a revelation in his second and third games, scoring 19 each time and averaging 8.5 rebounds. He’s been efficient – he made 7 of 8 shots in the loss to Portland – and he’s flashed the playmaking ability that was put into evidence for the first time in his career at Oklahoma City this season, seeing his assists per 36 minutes go from 1.4 last season to 3.6 this year. He had three against Portland to go with a block and a steal.

“The thing that jumped out to me immediately is when he checked in against Brooklyn and started guarding James (Harden),” Mason Plumlee said. “That’s the thing that to me said, ‘I’m here and this is what I do.’ ”

To be sure, defense is Diallo’s stock in trade. But the offense appears to be flowering – rapidly. He’s been a reluctant 3-point shooter – only 16 percent of his career attempts are triples – but he’s hit 3 of 5 over the last two games.

“He’s attacking the rim. He’s getting into the paint,” Casey said of the 6-foot-5 Diallo, 22. “He’s got a quick first step to get to the rim. He was 2 of 3 from three, but his gift is running the floor, attacking the paint and drawing the defense in and he’s doing a good job of kicking it out. That’s the thing he’s grown in his career – making those types of plays. But his energy level is elite.”

Stewart’s had busier stat lines than Wednesday’s six points and four rebounds in 18 minutes, but he’s ahead of schedule as a 3-point shooter. He made 2 of 4 against Portland and is now 8 of 16 over his last seven games from the arc. Casey hinted at Stewart’s 3-point shooting before it became a thing in games, then tried to tamp down enthusiasm for it for fear the rookie would lose sight of the meat and potatoes of defense, rebounding and screening.

But he had no quibbles with the four triples Stewart launched against the Trail Blazers, saying “he took the right shots. I thought all four of his threes tonight were good shots.”

Plumlee quickly came to admire the 19-year-old’s humility and earnestness and has seen improvements not only in his willingness to shoot from the perimeter but in areas more subtle, too.

“I just think positioning on defense, he’s made huge leaps,” Plumlee said. “His shot is great. Tonight, I would’ve liked to have seen him take a couple more down the stretch and not worry about the misses. His shot is as good as any big I’ve been around. He’s just going to keep getting better the more minutes he gets. He’s got a natural feel for the game. He’s only going to improve, which is encouraging.”

On a night the Pistons didn’t have enough in their arsenal to keep up with a high-powered offense, there was encouragement to be found in a pair of coltish young players who’d have been at home in the old Bad Boys locker room, Beef Stew and Hamidou.

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