Hot-shooting Sirvydis leaves with calf injury and takes 3-point threat with him as Pistons fall to Denver

Hamidou Diallo
Hamidou Diallo returned from a four-game absence to lead the Pistons with 18 points and 12 rebounds in Friday’s loss to the Denver Nuggets
Chris Schwegler (NBAE via Getty Images)
by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

The Pistons love the defense, athleticism and old-fashioned Bad Boys toughness that Josh Jackson and Hamidou Diallo give them at the wing positions. They’re a potentially dynamic and suffocating defensive duo. But the question is whether the Pistons can cobble together a viable offense in an era that demands 3-point volume and competence with them on the wings.

“Just wouldn’t fall. We had some good looks,” Dwane Casey said of the rough shooting numbers. “I thought our ball movement in the first half was excellent. Our decision-making on penetration was excellent. We had only four turnovers in the first half. We’ll take those looks and that execution to get those looks. In this league, you’ve got to be able to make ’em.”

There were extenuating circumstances, to be sure. The rotation was down to a precarious seven by night’s end. Diallo was playing for the first time in 10 days after being away from the team for personal reasons. Killian Hayes logged 38 minutes again as his workload has ramped up considerably in recent games.

“Some of it is fatigue,” Casey said. “Guys playing bigger minutes. We only had eight guys. That goes to your legs, I know.”

Jackson and Diallo were hardly the only Pistons who couldn’t find their range from the 3-point arc. The Pistons hit 6 of 37. Saddiq Bey, their highest-volume and best 3-point shooter with Wayne Ellington out with calf soreness, had his own struggles, going 2 of 10 – but played 40 minutes. He was the only starter who made even one. Hayes was 0 of 6, Jahlil Okafor – starting at center with both Mason Plumlee and Isaiah Stewart unavailable – 0 of 2.

Indeed, the only Pistons player who had any success from the 3-point arc all night was rookie Deividas Sirvydis – and after hitting the floor hard twice, once in each half, he left the game in the third quarter with 16 points in 19 minutes, hitting 4 of 7 from the 3-point line. The rest of the Pistons: 2 of 30. Ouch. Hard to win in today’s NBA shooting 16.2 percent from the 3-point line, making Denver’s 28.1 percent look positively robust.

“That’s the name of the game,” said Tyler Cook, who scored a career-high 17 points in 34 minutes. “Cash (Sirvydis) kind of started us off and got hot early in the first half. We were looking forward to getting him going again and having him go down kind of threw a wrench in our plans. When a man goes down, we’ve got to be ready to try to fill in that gap.”

Casey said Sirvydis got kicked in the calf and said his availability for Sunday’s season finale vs. Miami is to be determined. But his shooting display was an eye opener. The 20-year-old from Lithuania’s size at 6-foot-8, shooting range and all-around offensive skill set have him firmly on the Pistons radar at this point.

“That’s who he is. That’s what he does,” Casey said. “The more confidence he gets, I think he can knock those down. Like I said all year, he’s just got to get stronger, get used to the NBA speed and physicality. But he’s a shooter. He’s a scorer. He’s a kid that will really benefit from the G League – back and forth, back and forth. I don’t know when he’s going to be a player, but I predict he’s going to be a player.”

Diallo and Jackson showed out in a lot of other areas aside from 3-point shooting. Diallo led the Pistons with 18 points and 12 rebounds. Jackson had 11 points, 10 boards and seven assists. Getting those rebounding numbers from wings and a combined 10 assists are among the reasons the two young players – Diallo 23, Jackson 24 – are firmly part of the Pistons young core.

But on a night Denver – which got a triple-double from MVP front-runner Nikola Jokic (20 points, 15 rebounds, 11 assists) in just 26 minutes – was ripe for a beating after playing at Minnesota on Thursday, the Pistons just couldn’t produce enough punch from the perimeter.

“I think we got great shots,” Cook said. “We had a few drive-kick-swing opportunities, got great looks, looks we want every game. Tonight, they just didn’t fall. After we watch film, we’ll realize we’ll take those shots any night.”

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