On a night tinged in remembrances of Kobe Bryant, Pistons fall to Cavs
Chris Schwegler (NBAE/Getty)
Three quick observations from Monday night’s 115-110 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers at Little Caesars Arena
8/24 – Kobe Bryant’s absence was the dominant presence of the night. The game clock stopped at 8:24 in the countdown to tipoff as both teams lined up and the arena darkened, lit only by the LED rings emanating purple light separating arena levels. The Pistons wore customized Motor City edition jerseys over their game uniforms, all with “Bryant” on the nameplate and all bearing either of the two numbers Bryant wore during his Lakers career, 8 and 24. The Pistons played a video tribute that featured Bryant’s last appearance as a visiting player against the Pistons from Dec. 6, 2015 at The Palace of Auburn Hills. Several Pistons wore shoes honoring Bryant, who along with his 13-year old daughter Gianna and seven others died in a Sunday helicopter crash north of Los Angeles. Cleveland won the tip and took a 24-second violation, the Pistons responding by taking an 8-second backcourt violation on the ensuing possession. After that, energy seemed to drain from Little Caesars Arena. The Pistons, playing their third game in four nights and doing so without four key players, never led over the final three quarters. Reggie Jackson led them with 16 points. Kevin Love hit 6 of 8 3-point shots in the first half and finished with 20 points, none after halftime, for Cleveland while Collin Sexton scored 23.
NUMBER 23 – Another night, yet another starting lineup for the Pistons. It was their 23rd, most in the NBA. With Derrick Rose sitting out, Reggie Jackson was back at point guard. The Pistons went big up front with Thon Maker at power forward next to Andre Drummond and Sekou Doumbouya sliding to small forward as Tony Snell missed his third straight game due to illness. Rose’s absence – he missed the game with right knee soreness, though he was listed as probable on the injury report issued 90 minutes before tipoff – was complicated by the fact the Pistons, likely assuming Rose would be able to play, had reassigned two-way player Jordan Bone to the Grand Rapids Drive. That left Bruce Brown as the backup point guard and he came off the bench with Svi Mykhailiuk starting at shooting guard. Two Pistons went to the locker room in the first quarter, though both Thon Maker (cut above right eye) and Langston Galloway (apparent dislocated left pinkie finger) returned shortly.
MISSING POINTS – The Pistons have had time to adapt – as best they can, at least – to the absences of Blake Griffin and Luke Kennard. Playing without Derrick Rose on Monday – with Rose in the midst of the longest streak of his career for scoring at least 20 points (12 straight games) – proved too much for the offense to overcome. The Pistons shot 45 percent overall and 34 from the 3-point arc. They committed 18 turnovers and, tellingly, attempted only 17 free throws, 10 of them coming in the fourth quarter after they’d fallen 19 points behind. For as poorly as the Pistons performed offensively, it was the fact their defense yielded 36 points in the third quarter to the NBA’s 29th ranked offense that took them out of the game. Down eight points at halftime, the Pistons were outscored by 11 points in the third quarter to take a 19-point deficit to the fourth. The Cavaliers scored 64 points in the paint, well above their average of 48 a game. Cleveland’s win snapped a seven-game losing streak. It was the third game in four nights for the Pistons and their fourth in sixth nights amid a very busy stretch leading to the All-Star break. They’ll have played 15 games in 26 days by the time they play at Orlando on Feb. 12 to begin the break. The Pistons and Cavaliers split their season series 2-2 with the road team winning all four games.