Offense coughs and sputters as Pistons score season-low 76 points in loss to Hornets
Chris Schwegler (NBAE/Getty)
Three quick observations from Monday night’s 87-76 loss to the Charlotte Hornets at Little Caesars Arena
WINTER DOLDRUMS – Before a somnambulant first half against Charlotte, the worst first quarter and first half of the Pistons season came back on Nov. 12 at Miami. They had a pretty good reason for their lethargy that night. They’d played a home game the preceding night, then sat on the tarmac at Detroit Metro Airport for four hours while a snowstorm raged outside, planes were deiced and runways were plowed. By the time they got to their beds in Miami, the sun was rising and it was nearly 7 a.m. They scored 17 in the first quarter and 37 in the first half before awakening and making a game out of it. The Pistons eventually got to 37 for the half against Charlotte – a team that had lost 13 of 14 games and five straight – and still found themselves trailing by just 10 points at the break. The Pistons pulled within two points early in the third quarter and trailed by only seven entering the fourth despite the fact their leading scorer at the time, Christian Wood, had just 10 points. By midway through the fourth quarter, Charlotte had matched its biggest lead at 15 and the Pistons wound up scoring a season-low 76. The previous low was 81 points at Utah in Dec. 30. Thon Maker wound up with 12 points and a season-high 12 rebounds to lead the Pistons, who finished with three players in double figures. The Pistons wound up being swept by Charlotte this season, meaning nearly a quarter of the Hornets 17 wins came against Detroit.
KNIGHT MOVES – Brandon Knight, acquired from Cleveland in last week’s trade that sent Andre Drummond to the Cavaliers, appeared in his first game in a Pistons uniform since April 17, 2013. It was the final game of his second NBA season and the Pistons traded Knight that summer along with Khris Middleton for Brandon Jennings from Milwaukee. Knight was 21 at the time and he returns as a 28-year-old in his ninth season. Knight’s second tour of duty with the Pistons was a rough one. He committed four turnovers in less than seven first-half minutes, missing his only two shots. Knight didn’t enter in the second half until the Pistons fell 15 points behind midway through the fourth quarter. He made his last shot, a 3-pointer, to finish 1 of 4 for three points in 12 minutes. Knight averaged 19.6 points a game, a career best, as a 24-year-old with Phoenix in 2015-16 but he’s suffered some significant injuries since, including a torn ACL that cost him all of the 2017-18 season.
A LITTLE HELP – The Pistons went without five players on Monday and that represented an improvement from recent games. They got back Markieff Morris, who’d missed the previous five games with a hip injury and then the flu, in addition to Brandon Knight making his first appearance since last week’s trade. The effect on the frontcourt was that Dwane Casey expanded his rotation to five big men – Thon Maker and Christian Wood as the starters with Morris, Sekou Doumbouya and Morris off of the bench – in the first half. Doumbouya was first off the bench in the first half, but last of the group in the second half when Casey used him at small forward behind Tony Snell. Doumbouya was active but shot 1 of 6 in 12 first-half minutes and finished 2 of 8 for four points with four rebounds. Morris finished with 10 points in 20 minutes. Henson, after a 12-point debut on Saturday when he made all six of his shots, made his first three shots against Charlotte before his first miss, a point-blank tip of Langston Galloway’s missed runner early in the fourth quarter.