Minus 2 starters, Pistons put a dent in Kings playoff hopes as Joseph carves up ex-team


Three quick observations from Thursday night’s 113-101 win over the Sacramento Kings at Golden 1 Center

ROAD WARRIORS – Sacramento snapped a nine-game losing streak at the Pistons expense when they came to Detroit in late February. The Pistons weren’t about to let the Kings end a four-game losing streak at their expense this time around. The Pistons won for the second time in three games on a five-game road trip, starting strong and holding off a late Sacramento push that pulled the Kings within single digits before a few big late baskets by ex-King Cory Joseph. Without two starters, Mason Plumlee (concussion evaluation) and Jerami Grant (right knee soreness), Dwane Casey fielded a new starting lineup that included Josh Jackson, Joseph and Dennis Smith Jr. with Isaiah Stewart in Plumlee’s spot and Saddiq Bey taking over at Grant’s power forward position. Sacramento the NBA’s 30th-ranked defense but the 10th-ranked offense and the Pistons held the Kings to just 44 first-half points. Joseph led the Pistons with 24 points.

OKAFOR’S BACK – It looked like Saddiq Bey bore the brunt of the head-to-head collision he experienced with Mason Plumlee in Denver on Tuesday night, but it was Bey in the starting lineup at Sacramento and Plumlee held out for concussion evaluation. Both players returned to the lineup after their late first-half collision at Denver. With Plumlee out, Isaiah Stewart was backed up by Jahlil Okafor, who returned to the lineup for the first time since late January. Okafor underwent knee surgery to clean up damaged cartilage in early February. Okafor played 15 minutes and scored a season-high 11 points to go with three rebounds and three assists. Stewart, making his fourth start, played a terrific all-around game at both ends. He finished with his fifth career double-double (16 points, 13 rebounds), hitting 8 of 10 shots and picking up four assists.

HAPPY RETURN – The Kings traded Cory Joseph and two second-round picks to the Pistons for Delon Wright with the expectation it would be a backcourt upgrade to aid Sacramento’s playoff run. Joseph played like that was an insult, helping drive the Pistons to their 18-point halftime lead when he scored 14 of his 24 points and dished out four of his seven assists. Joseph has a thing for his ex-teams, apparently. In his first eight games since joining the Pistons last month, Joseph’s highest-scoring game came against another of his former teams, a 17-point outing in a March 29 win over Toronto. Joseph got into the paint against Sacramento at will, especially in the first half, and hit 10 of 14 shots. Rookie Killian Hayes also had a good night, scoring 11 points on 5 of 7 shooting to go with three rebounds and two assists in 21 minutes.