Missing Wright, Pistons can’t generate enough offense in loss at Orlando

Jerami Grant
Jerami Grant led the Pistons with 24 points in their loss Sunday at Orlando as their five-game road trip continued
Fernando Medina (NBAE/Getty)
by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

FAST BREAKDOWN

Three quick observations from Sunday night’s 105-96 loss to the Orlando Magic at Amway Center

ROOKIE REVELATION – With news that Delon Wright’s groin strain suffered in Friday’s loss at Memphis would keep him out a minimum of two weeks, the Pistons will be challenged to keep up on the scoreboard given their situation at point guard. Wright was playing his best basketball – over his last seven games, he’d averaged 16.7 points on 62 percent shooting, 6.1 assists and 4.3 rebounds – and losing him will pose a challenge for the Pistons to play effectively enough in their half-court offense with their point guard options down to recently acquired Dennis Smith Jr. and rookie second-rounder Saben Lee, whose time is limited by his status on a two-way contract. But Lee made an impression in Sunday’s loss. Lee blew past his previous career high in minutes played in the first half alone and finished with 33 minutes played, scoring 12 points and adding five assists, four rebounds and three steals with just one turnover. Smith was having a very rough night until a 23-second burst early in the third quarter when he bracketed a pair of triples from the same spot along the left wing around a steal. Those six points were all of his scoring. Jerami Grant led the Pistons with 24 points, but poor 3-point shooting, 11 of 40, made it an uphill climb.

TRENDING YOUNGER – The Pistons, already the third-youngest team in the NBA, are trending even younger with the decision that Blake Griffin will be idled while he and Pistons work out a mutually satisfactory next move. They finished the first quarter with starter Saddiq Bey (21) and four bench players: Sekou Doumbouya (20), Isaiah Stewart (19), Saben Lee (21) and Josh Jackson (24). Stewart and Bey have already carved out significant roles as rookies and Lee made a loud case to join them with his Sunday showing. Stewart gave the Pistons eight rebounds, three blocked shots, two assists and four points in 20 minutes. Bey came into the game with 54 3-pointers made, second among rookies to Tyrese Haliburton, and hit another three in 10 attempts in an 11-point night. He also finished with seven rebounds. Doumbouya, playing his second game after a two-game absence with a concussion, shot just 1 of 6 and finished with three points and five rebounds in 16 minutes.

WHAT NEXT? – The two-week window on Delon Wright’s injury means he won’t return until after the NBA mid-season break, scheduled March 5-10. The Pistons play six games before the break, so if Wright’s injury – diagnosed as a grade-2 strain – sufficiently heals within the two-week time frame before his re-evaluation, perhaps he won’t miss any more than that. In the meantime, the Pistons will make do with Dennis Smith Jr., Saben Lee and Frank Jackson – Jackson, like Lee, is on a two-week contract and recently missed about a week due to illness – with veteran Rodney McGruder in reserve. McGruder filled in at point guard for the time the Pistons were without Derrick Rose and before Smith came out of quarantine following his acquisition from the New York Knicks in the Rose trade. “It’s going to be by committee,” Dwane Casey said prior to Sunday’s tipoff. “We’ll get a look at all those guys.” Casey said the NBA has discussed more liberal playing allowances for players on two-way contracts this season due to the strain on rosters caused by COVID-19 protocols.

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