‘He played like an All-Star’ – Grant’s 31 leads Pistons to OT win over Phoenix
Chris Schwegler (NBAE/Getty)
Anyone want to quibble with the decision to go after Jerami Grant now?
The Pistons’ bet that Grant had more to offer than as an elite 3-and-D wing looked like one of the shrewdest calls of the NBA off-season even before Friday night, when he had his best game of the nine he’s played in a Pistons uniform. Grant finished with 31 points and 10 rebounds and – when the Pistons got out of a zone defense that turned Friday’s 110-105 overtime win over Phoenix around – draped himself over Suns All-Star Devin Booker on the defensive end.
“I knew he was doing good things in the (NBA’s Orlando) bubble. I had to go back and look at his highlights,” new teammate Delon Wright said of his thoughts when he saw the move the Pistons made to sign Grant in free agency. “I kind of saw his thought process to come to Detroit, being allowed to spread his wings and be more the main guy.”
Grant showed the patience of a star scorer when he was held to just three shot attempts, though he went to halftime with 10 points. He scored 13 in the second half and then eight more in overtime, including two baskets worthy of a high-level, first-option scorer in the final minute: a knifing baseline drive to put the Pistons ahead 106-100 with 58 seconds to play, then a dagger corner triple after Devin Booker’s leaning 3-pointer cut the lead in half with 40 seconds to play.
“I thought he played big time – played like an All-Star,” Dwane Casey said. “He allowed the game to come to him. He didn’t have a lot of looks at first. He let the game come to him and I’m just as proud of him for that as anything. He didn’t get frustrated.”
It was the second straight game Grant scored 31, a career high. He’s scored 20 or more points eight straight times and went into the game with more points in his first eight games with the Pistons than everyone not named Adrian Dantley, whose 195 points were three more than the 192 Grant had registered. He began the night one of nine NBA players averaging 24 points and six rebounds.
“That was just kind of how the game was going,” Grant said of getting to halftime with only three shots and finishing 10 of 15 overall, 3 of 5 from the 3-point arc and 8 of 11 at the foul line on a night the Pistons outscored Phoenix 25-6 at the line. “It’s not frustrating. We got the win. The coaches did a good job, especially in the second half of getting me to my strengths and opening up the floor.”
The Pistons got 16 points and 12 rebounds from Blake Griffin and 16 points, five boards and six assists from Wright, but it was their defense that put them in position for Grant’s star turn to pull out a win, their second in nine games.
And no one would have thought we’d be hailing their defense after Phoenix hung 54 points on the board in the game’s first 18 minutes while shooting better than 70 percent. Ex-Piston Langston Galloway scored 17 points in nine first-half minutes as the Suns went on a 33-11 run to lead 54-31 with six minutes gone in the second quarter. That’s when Casey called timeout and put the Pistons in a zone that they would stay in until going back to man to man for late-game possessions.
“I just think it worked really well because it got us back set,” Wright said. “They were getting a lot of points in transition. We just had a hard time with them in transition. The zone helped us pack the paint and find shooters.”
“It was good to us,” Casey said. “We weren’t stopping ’em man to man, so we had to give them a different look. Guys executed. We made a few mistakes, but for the most part they were hard mistakes. I thought our guys competed at a high level. That’s the team that I recognize.”
Rookie Saddiq Bey is quickly becoming an important part of that team. He made contributions at both ends. Bey finished with 10 points and four rebounds, scoring five quick points in overtime as the Pistons opened it on a 9-0 run. And when Grant picked up his fifth foul in overtime, it was Bey who switched on to Booker.
But it was Grant’s night, which is fast becoming the norm for the Pistons.
“He was great,” Griffin said. “I’m very impressed with his patience and his decision-making in games. He doesn’t settle. He’ll size somebody up and seems like he can get to the hole whenever he wants.”