Foul trouble slows Grant when Mavs can’t as Pistons drop one in Dallas
Cato Cataldo (NBAE via Getty Images)
Three quick observations from Wednesday night’s 127-117 loss to the Dallas Mavericks at American Airlines Center
FOUL BUSINESS – Jerami Grant got the Pistons out of the blocks at a sprint at Dallas, scoring 15 points in the first nine minutes. Foul trouble slowed him – limiting him to just two minutes in a scoreless second quarter and three minutes combined in the middle two quarters – and without Grant’s scoring punch the Pistons simply had trouble matching an explosive Dallas offense. A 12-2 run to close the first half gave Dallas a nine-point lead and it stayed in that range most of the third quarter, but the Mavs spurted to a 15-point cushion early in the fourth quarter. Grant’s eight fourth-quarter points kept the Pistons in it – they were still within eight points with more than three minutes to play – but Luka Doncic’s 30 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists carried Dallas to the win. Grant, who sat out on Monday as the Pistons continue to monitor knee and quad ailments that have recently dogged him, has been a more effective player when he’s fresh, according to the stats. Grant on two or more days rest this season averages 28 points and 5.4 rebounds on 49.2 percent shooting and 40 percent 3-point shooting. Dwane Casey has said a priority for Grant this off-season will be to make incremental strength gains to he’s better equipped to handle the pounding he takes on his frequent takes to the rim. Grant, who finished with 28 points in 27 minutes, hits the floor a lot, a concern for the physical toll it takes, and he’s playing in a different role as his team’s first option for the first time in his seven-year NBA career. Grant’s 34.3 minutes a game is a career high and his 28.1 percent usage rate is a career high by a wide margin, 10.1 percentage points above last season’s 18.0 with Denver. Mason Plumlee fouled out with 13 points, 16 rebounds and seven assists and made all four of his shots and all five of his free throws. Cory Joseph pitched in with 24 points, five rebounds and five assists.
HAYES SITS – Killian Hayes was held out of Wednesday’s game and that probably means the Pistons will hold back some veterans from Thursday’s matchup at San Antonio as they have in recent back to backs. Hayes hasn’t played in a back to back since returning from injury earlier this month, but this is the first time he’s sat out the front end of it. Dwane Casey has said it’s an organizational priority to get to season’s end without any lingering injuries that will force players to spend off-seasons focused on rehabilitation rather than development. Veterans Jerami Grant, Mason Plumlee, Wayne Ellington and Cory Joseph have all been rested in recent games and could be likely candidates to be held out at San Antonio. Rodney McGruder has missed extended time with an elbow injury. Dennis Smith Jr., upgraded from out to doubtful for Wednesday’s game with left knee soreness before ultimately sitting out again, might be getting closer to a return. When he does – Smith has missed the past seven games – Casey said before the Dallas game that he’d like to get back to pairing Hayes with another point guard to get more playmaking on the floor simultaneously.
ROOKIE ROUNDUP – With Killian Hayes sitting out, the Pistons still had three rookies on the floor together at times – first-rounders Saddiq Bey and Isaiah Stewart and second-rounder Saben Lee, who slid into Hayes’ spot in the backcourt rotation. Lee’s night was highlighted by a dunk on the last possession of the first quarter when he came around the corner, took off and finally landed the hammer dunk he’s attempted a handful of times this season but couldn’t quite complete. This time he came around a Jerami Grant screen, down the right side of the lane and threw it down on Dallas 7-footer Willie Cauley-Stein. Lee finished with six points, two rebounds and an assist in 12 minutes. Bey, coming off of his fifth game of the season with at least six 3-pointers to set an NBA rookie record, finished with 11 points, three rebounds and two assists in 27 minutes. Bey, who hit 2 of 5 from the 3-point line, is also tied with Steph Curry and Allen Iverson as rookies to have nine games with at least five triples. It wasn’t one of his prolific 3-point nights, but Bey exhibited some of the progression he’s made in his game with a nice drive and dish to Stewart for a third-quarter layup. Stewart was coming off of an 18-point, 16-rebound, three-blocks, three-steals game that put him with Chris Webber, Shaquille O’Neal and Emeka Okafor as rookies to reach those numbers since 1990. He finished with seven points and six rebounds in 15 minutes.