‘Love his energy’ – Stewart nets a career-best 19 points in Pistons loss a night after 21-rebound outing
Stephen Gosling (NBAE via Getty Images)
Back when the season started in December, or a hundred years ago, Dwane Casey’s bench was pretty much Derrick Rose and a bunch of question marks.
It speaks to the nuggets Troy Weaver mined, the alchemy Dwane Casey has employed in molding a revolving cast of players into a cohesive force and the development of all those young players put in the pipeline that the Pistons have managed to cobble together the NBA’s highest-scoring bench unit on the season, averaging 42.2 points per game, long after Rose was traded.
“It’s all part of the process,” Frank Jackson said after scoring 19 of the bench’s 55 points in Saturday’s 121-100 loss at Washington. “We’ve got so many talented guys. We’ve got to see who plays well together. Just every single day, getting acclimated and feeling more comfortable with guys and trying to win ballgames.”
The 45 points combined from Pistons starters, though, meant they were fighting an uphill battle – especially given that NBA leading scorer Bradley Beal hung 37 by himself on the scoreboard – in a place where they seem to start off 20 points in the hole every time out. Indeed, Saturday’s was their 12th straight loss at Capital One Arena dating back more than eight years.
Josh Jackson (17 points) and Jerami Grant (14) led Pistons starters, but they also combined for nine turnovers – half the team’s total – and it was turnovers and an inability to keep Washington out of the paint that Casey lamented after the game. The Wizards scored 74 points in the paint, a measure of the effectiveness foremost of Russell Westbrook (15 points, 14 rebounds, 11 assists).
“We didn’t have great rim protection and they got there way too easy,” Casey said. “I don’t get as excited about that as making sure we keep the guy in front of us and not let them get in there.”
Rookie Saddiq Bey, after logging 39 hard minutes on Friday, struggled to get to four points, all coming late, and shot 1 of 7 and 0 of 4 from the 3-point line. That made the outing of fellow rookie Isaiah Stewart all the more remarkable.
A night after grabbing a career-best 21 rebounds in a pinch-hit start for Plumlee, Stewart came back with a career-high 19 points, 12 boards and two blocks in 24 minutes.
“Love the way he plays,” Casey said of Stewart. “Love his energy. He sets the tone when he’s in the game. He makes a difference on both ends – and definitely in the rebounding area.”
The third of the three rookie first-round picks, Killian Hayes, was held out as the Pistons continue to keep him out of back to backs since his return from a hip injury two weeks ago. That left Frank Jackson as Stewart’s wing man off the bench, his 19 points coming on 8 of 13 shooting, 3 of 6 from the 3-point line.
Jackson has become a rotation staple over the last five weeks and in 19 games over that time he’s scored in double figures 12 times. He’s averaged 14 points over the last five games despite getting shut out in the middle game of the bunch, scoring 17, 16, 18 and 19 in the other four.
“Just staying ready. When my number’s called, try to bring a spark off the bench whenever I can,” Jackson said. “This league throws so many different things at you, you’ve just got to continue to work every day and be ready when your number’s called.”
“He’s one of our best offensive players,” Casey said of the 22-year-old Jackson, playing on a two-way contract but solidifying his status as one of the young core added this season. “He’s a 3-point threat. He opens everything up, he and Wayne do as far as driving lanes. When he’s on the floor, if they do collapse on Jerami, the kickouts are there.”
Jackson has elevated his 3-point shooting after hitting 32 percent from the arc in his first two NBA seasons, becoming a 40 percent deep shooter and helping that number out by hitting 3 of 6 at Washington. But he’s also got premium athleticism and he’s refining his off-the-dribble game, as well, hitting 5 of 7 shots inside the arc, mostly drives to the rim.
“We didn’t shoot the ball well tonight, but you know when Frank comes in, he’s locked and loaded. He’s a definite threat on the floor. He’s playing excellent basketball right now.”