Grant, Plumlee return but Pistons drop season’s road finale to Philadelphia
Jesse D. Garrabrant (NBAE/Getty)
Three quick observations from Saturday night’s 118-104 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers at Wells Fargo Center
WELCOME BACK – After missing the past five games, Jerami Grant and Mason Plumlee returned to the lineup for the Pistons, one game after Cory Joseph and Wayne Ellington returned from four-game absences. All four players started with rookie Saddiq Bey and the start of the game looked very much like five players who hadn’t spent any time playing together for a few weeks. The Pistons turned it over five times in the first six minutes as Philadelphia took an early 21-9 lead that was never threatened. It grew to a 20-point deficit before Dwane Casey’s bench pulled the Pistons back within eight points, but they spent most of the night trailing by 10 to 20 points. Philadelphia, which began the night with a three-game lead for the No. 1 seed in the East over Brooklyn and Philadelphia, won its eight straight game despite playing without Ben Simmons. MVP candidate Joel Embiid scored 29 points, hitting 11 of 13 shots, and his backup, Dwight Howard, added 19 points and 14 rebounds. Grant played the first and third quarters and finished with 14 points. It was the final road game of the season for the Pistons, who have four home games left.
THE 2019 CROP – There are only two players on the Pistons roster who predate the June 2020 hiring of Troy Weaver as general manager, 2019 draft picks Sekou Doumbouya and Deividas Sirvydis. For the first time this season, the two played together for extended minutes, each playing the entire second quarter and acquitting themselves very well. Doumbouya finished with 12 points, four rebounds and an assist, a nice feed to Mason Plumlee after a strong drive into the paint. Doumbouya continued to show improved finishing ability around the rim and scored a fourth-quarter basket after good anticipation led to a steal and breakaway dunk. Doumbouya and Sirvydis entered the game together to start the second quarter and almost immediately teamed up for a nice fast-break basket. Three possessions later, Sirvydis swished a transition triple from the right wing. He blew past his previous highs for points and minutes played with eight points, six rebounds and an assist in 24 minutes, hitting 2 of 4 from the 3-point arc.
HEAVY LOAD – As for the 2020 rookies, the recent compressed schedule – Saturday was the fourth game in six days – and the heavier workload they’ve taken on is teaching them how to grind through the rigors of the NBA’s unrelenting schedule. In Tuesday’s loss to Charlotte, which was a back to back and the third game in four nights, Bey, Stewart and Hayes combined for 14 points on 4 of 23 shooting. Dwane Casey said that night that there was no question in his mind that the mental fatigue – preparing as starters for so many different and unfamiliar opponents in such a condensed window – was even more a burden for the rookies than the physical toll. Bey, after being held to two points and two rebounds in Saturday’s first half, bounced back with 12 points and five boards in the third quarter before sitting out the fourth. Hayes, who missed Thursday’s game due to illness, also bounced back with a strong fourth quarter – though he went to the bench after five minutes with a slight limp, returning for the final four minutes – and finished with 10 points, all in the fourth quarter, and six assists. He hit 2 of 3 from the 3-point arc. The six assists gave him 11 straight games with at least five, the longest such streak by a Pistons rookie since Joe Dumars went 12 straight in 1985-86. Stewart was limited to six first-half minutes by picking up three fouls. He also closed strong, finishing with nine points, six rebounds and three blocks.