No Griffin, no Rose, but Pistons kids give East beast 76ers all they can handle in narrow loss
Chris Schwegler (NBAE/Getty)
Three quick observations from Saturday night’s 114-110 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers at Little Caesars Arena
KIDDIE CORPS – With Blake Griffin and Derrick Rose taking the night off to rest their left knees, the Pistons opened the second quarter with a lineup that wouldn’t have been old by Big Ten standards, never mind the NBA. The grizzled old men of the group were Svi Mykhailiuk and Josh Jackson, each 23. Rookies Isaiah Stewart and Saben Lee, 19 and 21, were joined by 20-year-old Sekou Doumbouya. A minute into the quarter, 76ers coach Doc Rivers called a timeout. The frisky young Pistons went on a 10-2 run to open the quarter, prompting Rivers to wave All-Stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons back in the game. Casey let the Kiddie Corps play four minutes together before getting starters Delon Wright and Mason Plumlee back in the game, but the Pistons won their minutes 10-8. It was an especially encouraging night for Mykahailiuk and Doumbouya, two players who’ve had to fight to win a spot in the rotation so far this season. Mykhailiuk finished with 15 points in 18 minutes, hitting 3 of 4 from the 3-point line; Doumbouya had 13 points and four rebounds in 19 minutes. Jerami Grant, who’d led the Pistons in scoring for 14 straight games and scored at least 21 points in every one of them, finished with 11. He shot 2 of 17 through three quarters, taking his first shot of the fourth quarter with 28 seconds left – a 3-pointer to pull the Pistons within two. Ben Simmons, a 63 percent foul shooter who hit 10 of 12, then made two free throws to make it a four-point game. Joel Embiid finished with 33 point and 14 rebounds for Philadelphia.
MAKING HISTORY – Philadelphia native Wayne Ellington came into the game as one of the NBA’s hottest shooters, hitting 17 of 30 from the 3-point arc over the previous three games. The 17 made triples over a three-game stretch tied a franchise record held by Joe Dumars, Terry Mills and Allan Houston, who did it twice. The four-game record now is Ellington’s alone as he made four more in six attempts. He helped the Pistons to get off to a good start, leading the 76ers 31-28 after a quarter, by scoring nine of his 17 points in the first quarter. A 12-year veteran, Ellington came into the game averaging a career-high 11.4 points a game despite playing just 21.7 minutes a game, a mark he’s exceeded five times in his career. A career 38 percent 3-point shooter, Ellington is shooting 51.5 percent from the arc for the season. Ellington and Philadelphia’s Danny Green, who finished with seven points, were teammates on North Carolina’s 2009 NCAA championship team that beat Michigan State at Detroit’s Ford Field to win the title.
BEY WATCH – Saddiq Bey looked nothing like a rookie over the first three weeks of his NBA career, but Dwane Casey figured the inevitable dose of adversity was coming for the No. 19 pick in the November draft. Over his last four games coming into Saturday’s loss – during which Bey contributed 10 points, three rebounds and a steal in 19 minutes – he totaled seven points and three rebounds and made just 1 of 9 from the 3-point arc. Bey drew the start in place of Blake Griffin and found himself initially matched up with ex-Pistons forward Tobias Harris. Bey made his first 3-point shot of the night, stepping into it confidently from the left wing, and gave the Pistons a two-point halftime lead with a steal and buzzer-beating layup. “Just like most rookies, he’s trying to find his way,” Casey said. “Nothing to be alarmed about. The young man’s working his behind off. You’re going to see that in rookies. They’re up and down. Very rare you see a rookie take off and just stay up there. There’s going to be a leveling-off period. He’ll bounce back. He’s one of our hardest workers.” Over the nine games prior to the four-game slump, Bey averaged 11.7 points and 4.7 rebounds while shooting 44.6 percent from the 3-point arc on seven attempts a game.