Big nights for Grant, Bey but Pistons can’t keep up with elite Nuggets offense in loss at Denver
Scott Audette (NBAE/Getty)
Three quick observations from Tuesday night’s 134-119 loss to the Denver Nuggets at Ball Arena
1-2 PUNCH – At halftime in Denver, homecoming Jerami Grant had scored 20 points and rookie Saddiq Bey had 19 – including four 3-pointers, the first of which gave him the Pistons rookie record for triples in a season with 106. But the Pistons trailed by 20 because Denver’s offense since the trade deadline and with the addition of Aaron Gordon has been next level, easily No. 1 in the NBA. The Nuggets shot 67 percent in the first half when they scored a whopping 40 points in the paint. Denver closed the first quarter on a 9-0 run – all of that happening after Grant sat down with the Pistons holding a 32-30 lead – and closed the second quarter on an 11-0 run. Grant finished with 29 points, five rebounds and four assists in 30 minutes and Bey with 25 points, hitting 6 of 12 3-pointers. Bey tied an NBA rookie record – shared with Juan Carlos Navarro and Coby White – of making at least six 3-point shots in four games. Mason Plumlee, the other homecoming ex-Nugget, had four points in 20 minutes. Bey and Plumlee banged heads late in the first half in pursuit of an offensive rebound. Bey took the brunt of it as the crown of Plumlee’s head hit Bey’s face. Play stopped momentarily as Bey and Plumlee were checked out with Plumlee staying in the game. Bey went to the bench, but he was back on the floor to start the third quarter.
HAYES HELD OUT – After his best all-around game of the nine he’s played so far, Killian Hayes was held out on the advice of Pistons medical staffers, Dwane Casey said, after he missed three months with a hip injury before returning to play Saturday and Monday. Hayes played 25 minutes and finished with nine points, seven assists, three rebounds, four steals and two blocked shots in Monday’s rout of Oklahoma City. Casey said it wasn’t yet determined if Hayes would continue to sit out on back to backs, of which the Pistons have five more this season including one later this week to conclude their five-game road trip. With Hayes out, Casey retained a three-headed rotation at point guard, sliding Dennis Smith Jr. – who sat out Monday’s game after his return following a five-game absence on Saturday – into Hayes’ spot in the pecking order. Saben Lee started his seventh consecutive game and racked up seven assists in just 15 minutes, but the first points for any of the three point guards Casey used came late in the third quarter when Smith hit a triple. Smith finished with six points and two assists in 13 minutes. Veteran Cory Joseph added nine points and seven assists in 19 minutes.
BENCH BEATEN UP – The Pistons have gotten a lot of mileage out of their bench this season despite the fact Dwane Casey has had to adjust on the fly several times to different configurations. That bench came into the game averaging an NBA-high 42.5 points a game and 24 hours earlier had contributed a season-best 67 points to the 132-108 win at Oklahoma City. But their numbers in Tuesday’s decisive first half were telling: Wayne Ellington and Hamidou Diallo were both minus-17 in seven minutes and Isaiah Stewart and Sekou Doumbouya were also double digits in the red. As Casey continues to look at different combinations, the rotation is never quite the same two games in a row. The tweak made this time was using Doumbouya behind Jerami Grant in the first half but Tyler Cook at that spot behind Grant in the second and using Frank Jackson along with Ellington with the second unit in the second half. Jackson finished 11 points in 16 minutes.