Grant returns but late 3-point Pistons burst comes up short in loss to Philadelphia


Three quick observations from Thursday night’s 110-102 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers at Wells Fargo Center

SEMI-HAPPY RETURN – The Pistons didn’t get the win, but they did get Jerami Grant back in the lineup – and there’s the potential for Cade Cunningham to join him to complete the Pistons starting lineup for the first time when they host Orlando on Saturday. Grant, who missed Monday’s game at Atlanta with an elbow infection, finished with 14 points and six rebounds in 35 minutes. His return helped the Pistons defensively – they held Chicago under 100 in two games with him in the lineup – but spotty 3-point shooting continued to be their bugaboo. The Pistons entered the game 30th in the NBA at 22.5 percent and they finished at 33 percent despite hitting 7 of 11 in the fourth quarter to spark a comeback from 22 points down. The Pistons were within nine points with less than 10 seconds to go in the third quarter. But the 76ers got a three-point play to close the third and opened the fourth with triples on consecutive possessions in the first 45 seconds to double the lead to 18. The Pistons just don’t have enough firepower while their shooting is in a funk to come back from those types of deficits. The 76ers, meanwhile, opened the fourth quarter 5 of 6 from the 3-point arc with all of the makes from bench players after getting held to just 79 points through three quarters. After the Pistons fell behind 100-78, they went on a 13-0 run to pull within nine with four minutes to play. Saddiq Bey scored 14 of his 19 points in the fourth quarter to lead the Pistons. Cunningham has practiced this week with the Motor City Cruise, the team’s G League affiliate, and is scheduled to practice with the Pistons on Friday. If he has no setbacks and Casey feels comfortable with his readiness, the NBA draft’s No. 1 overall pick could make his debut on Saturday.

FRANK COMES ALIVE – Frank Jackson went from two-way contract to consistent sixth man over the second half of last season for the Pistons, but through three games the 41 percent 3-point shooter from last season couldn’t get much traction. He came into Thursday’s game shooting 2 of 13 from the arc after starting as the placeholder for Cade Cunningham in the first two games. But Jackson helped the Pistons get going after their icy shooting start, scoring nine quick points with a pair of threes – and a third wiped out by an offensive foul on Kelly Olynyk setting the screen – in five minutes to kick start the Pistons. Jackson’s running mate in the second unit’s backcourt, Cory Joseph, also had a bounce-back game after scuffling through the first week of the season. Joseph and Jackson were on the floor when the Pistons bench contributed 22 straight points spanning the first and second quarters. Jackson and Joseph finished with nine points each.

BAPTISM BY FIRE – When Isaiah Stewart picked up a third foul five minutes before halftime – and with Kelly Olynyk having only recently checked out and having two fouls himself, Dwane Casey turned to rookie Luka Garza to close the first half. The timing wasn’t great for the Pistons since Joel Embiid had just checked back in for Philadelphia and the MVP candidate smelled blood in the water against the Iowa rookie. When Embiid dunked after grabbing an offensive rebound with 3:35 left, he barked at Garza and picked up a technical foul. Embiid scored 10 points in Garza’s time, including four on free throws and four on put-backs. Garza countered with a pair of triples in three tries. Embiid drew a technical foul on Josh Jackson with 9:15 left in the third quarter when Jackson grabbed Embiid’s jersey while contesting a rebound. Embiid finished with 30 points and 18 rebounds. Ex-Pistons center Andre Drummond fouled out with two points and four rebounds in less than 15 minutes.