Joseph, Ellington come off injured list to power Pistons past Memphis
Chris Schwegler (NBAE/Getty)
Three quick observations from Thursday night’s 111-97 win over the Memphis Grizzlies at Little Caesars Arena
FRESH LEGS – With the Pistons missing so many backcourt players – Killian Hayes was out due to illness in addition to Josh Jackson and Hamidou Diallo being unavailable – two veterans who’ve missed the past four games, Cory Joseph and Wayne Ellington, were back in the mix. It looked like the rest did them good, too. Joseph helped the Pistons get off to a strong start with eight points and six assists in the first quarter on his way to a double-double with 18 points and 11 assists. Ellington reminded the Pistons what the threat of his 3-point shot does to bend opposing defenses. He got off 10 attempts in his 25 minutes and hit six to loosen up the Memphis defense and create driving and cutting lanes for teammates. That accounted for all of his 18 points, making him one of seven Pistons in double figures. Whether it was the injection the two steady veterans or something bigger than that, the Pistons limited their turnovers (12) and were stingy about sending Memphis to the free-throw line (11 of 17). Memphis led by seven points early, but the Pistons surged into the lead four minutes into the second quarter, built it to 10 points in the third quarter and never trailed. Memphis got as close as two points with six minutes to play, but the Pistons went on an 8-1 run and held Memphis without a basket for nearly four minutes to expand their lead to nine.
NEXT MAN UP – The Pistons have churned through starters at shooting guard especially of late, with Josh Jackson and Hamidou Diallo both getting their turn and Diallo turning in a career-high 35 points in Tuesday’s three-point loss to Charlotte. But with both unavailable on Thursday – Jackson had oral surgery, Diallo was missing for personal reasons – it was Frank Jackson’s turn. Jackson, a super sub for the past seven weeks, finished with 11 points, taking just six shots in 31 minutes. It speaks to Jackson’s rise that Memphis chose to fend him with Dillon Brooks, the best perimeter defender in the Grizzlies lineup. In 28 games since joining the rotation when the NBA lifted restrictions on two-way players’ games limit coming out of the All-Star break, Jackson had averaged 12.5 points in 22 minutes a game, shooting 47.6 percent overall, 41.5 from the 3-point arc and 81.2 from the 3-point line.
BOMBS AWAY – Isaiah Stewart is ahead of schedule as a rookie big man taking threes comfortably, shooting 35 percent from long distance coming into the game. He looked comfortable again taking them against Memphis – he just didn’t have much luck having them go down. Stewart matched his previous high of five 3-point attempts, something he’s done just once, but missed them all. He hit 6 of 9inside the arc and finished with 15 points and seven rebounds. The rookie had some of his toughest defensive matchups, spending most of the night against 7-foot-0 veteran Jonas Valanciunas, among the NBA’s most physical players, and at times going against the even longer Jaren Jackson Jr. Stewart finished with three blocked shots. Veteran Jahlil Okafor scored a season-high 13 points – one more than he scored in Tuesday’s game – in 17 minutes off the bench. Okafor hit 6 of 9 shots, missing his only 3-point attempt.