‘Every possession matters’ – turnover-prone Pistons can’t overcome early deficit in loss to Grizzlies

Sekou Doumbouya
Sekou Doumbouya returned after missing 2 games with a concussion and gave the Pistons a fourth-quarter spark in their loss at Memphis
Joe Murphy (NBAE via Getty Images)
by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

Maybe if Delon Wright hadn’t suffered an injury so mysterious even he wasn’t sure what happened, the Pistons would have left Memphis with the same euphoric feeling Chicago experienced two nights earlier having completed a 25-point comeback win over the Pistons.

This time, it was the Pistons spotting the other team a 21-point lead before clawing back. But seconds after Wright’s ceiling-scraping 3-pointer pulled the Pistons within six points with nine minutes to go, the Pistons were forced to call a timeout with Wright grimacing and walking gingerly to the bench.

“It was huge,” Dwane Casey said after the 109-95 loss. “He was playing well. Offensively, he got us into stuff. He was making plays, making shots. That did slow us down a little bit. That was a nip-and-tuck area of the game.”

The Pistons hung tight without Wright – who finished with 16 points, hitting 6 of 7 shots and 4 of 5 from the 3-point arc – and even surged to within a point at 90-89 with 6:27 to play. But too many turnovers – 21 for the game – down the stretch snuffed out whatever chance the Pistons had for a big comeback win of their own 48 hours after experiencing the other end of it.

“Every possession matters,” rookie Saddiq Bey said of the turnover issue. “We dug a hole early. We fought hard to come back in position to win. We’ve got to get over the hump.”

Bey hit three triples in the first three minutes of the second half as the Pistons cut a 10-point deficit to one early, only to fall back by 11 after three quarters. Bey and Wright combined to shoot 8 of 14 from the 3-point arc while their teammates hit 6 of 31. Jerami Grant, coming off a career-best 43 points, endured a 5 of 20 shooting night.

But it was turnovers more than poor shooting that undermined the offense, just as it was an inability to keep Ja Morant and his teammates out of the paint rather than torrid Memphis shooting that sunk the Pistons at the other end. Memphis led 35-17 after a first quarter in which the Grizzlies scored a brow-furrowing 24 points in the paint on their way to 66 there for the game.

“His speed and quickness creates problems,” Casey said of Morant, who finished with 29 points despite going 0 of 5 from the 3-point arc. “It was everybody guarding the ball except our big guy, trying to keep him in front. He was the main focus of our scouting report as far as our pick-and-roll defense and we dind’t execute it well in the first half.”

Wright’s injury was termed a right groin strain, though the seriousness of the injury wasn’t immediately clear.

“He said he didn’t remember how he did it. That was the scary part,” Casey said. “He was getting back in transition and felt it. We don’t know what the situation is going to be, whether it’s serious or not. We’ll wait and see tomorrow how he feels.”

If Wright were to miss any time, recently acquired Dennis Smith Jr.’s role will expand. He logged a season-high 23 minutes at Memphis, though he went scoreless and missed seven shots, four from the 3-point arc. Smith did have five assists, four rebounds, three steals and three blocked shots and was charged with just two of the 21 turnovers.

The Pistons got Sekou Doumbouya back after he’d missed a week and the past two games after suffering a concussion in the Feb. 11 loss to Indiana. Casey didn’t use Doumbouya, who said he was able to practice on Thursday night after being cleared from concussion protocol, until the start of the fourth quarter.

“I feel good,” he said after playing the first six minutes of the quarter. “It feels good to be back.”

Doumbouya finished with five points and grabbed two rebounds, scoring on a flashy drive and left-handed finish and sinking a deep 3-pointer among his three shots.

“It was good to see,” Casey said. “He came in and had an impact defensively. He was energized. We’ll continue to ramp up his minutes. I was really happy to see him come in and have an impact. We were trying to find energy and hustle and he brought it to us.”

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