Orlando’s 67 points off the bench too much for Pistons to overcome
Chris Schwegler (NBAE via Getty Images)
Three quick observations from Monday night’s 119-112 loss to the Orlando Magic at Little Caesars Arena
YOUNG GUNS – Already young, the Pistons went even younger in the season’s 65th game. By swapping out Josh Jackson, 24, for Hamidou Diallo, 22, in the starting lineup, the Pistons fielded a starting five averaging 20 years 11 months and including 19-year-old rookies Killian Hayes and Isaiah Stewart, 20-year-old Sekou Doumbouya and a third rookie, Saddiq Bey, who turned 22 last month. Whether it was youth catching up to them or something else, the Pistons allowed 68 second-half points to an Orlando team that traded away stars Nikola Vucevic, Evan Fournier and Aaron Gordon at the March trade deadline after injuries undermined its playoff hopes. Orlando held a 105-91 lead with six minutes to go, but the Pistons went on a 13-2 run in less than three minutes to close within three points. Bey scored eight points in the run and finished with 24, hitting 5 of 10 3-point shots to extend his NBA rookie record to 11 games with at least five triples. Orlando got 70 points off of its bench, the Pistons 47 off of theirs. Four Magic reserves scored in double figures, led by third-year center Mo Bamba with 22 points and 15 rebounds. The Pistons took the game’s biggest first-half lead, nine points, with 5:26 left in the second quarter but didn’t make another basket – missing six shots with three turnovers – after that, getting just three points on Hamidou Diallo free throws as Orlando closed the half on a 15-3 run to lead by three. The game was fraught with lottery implications. The Pistons came into the game with a 19-45 record and sat in the No. 2 spot for the June 22 lottery. The Magic took a 20-44 record into the game in the No. 4 spot, one-half game ahead of Minnesota, 20-45. The teams with the three worst records will all have the same shot at the No. 1 pick (14 percent) and the same odds at landing a top-four pick (52.1 percent).
ROOKIE VS. ROOKIE – For the second straight game, Killian Hayes found himself in a matchup of rookie point guards. On Saturday, it was No. 3 overall pick LaMelo Ball of Charlotte and on Monday it was Orlando’s Cole Anthony. Hayes finished with seven points and seven assists in 28 minutes. Anthony, the 15th overall pick after his draft stock took a hit during one injury-plagued season that saw North Carolina miss the NCAA tournament, finished with eight pints, four rebounds and four assists in 21 minutes. He was outshined by Orlando’s other rookie guard, R.J. Hampton, who flirted with a triple-double off the bench and finished with 16 points, seven rebounds and 10 assists in 35 minutes. Hayes and Ball put up very similar numbers in Saturday’s game: Ball had 11 points, seven rebounds and eight assists, Hayes with 10 points, six rebounds and six assists. The Pistons host Charlotte on Tuesday, but it remains to be seen if Hayes and Ball will face off again. Since returning from a three-month absence with a hip injury a month ago, Hayes has yet to play on consecutive nights.
DON’T FORGET LEE – Killian Hayes isn’t the only Pistons rookie point guard with a knack for racking up quick assists. And unlike Hayes, drafted foremost for his vision and passing ability, Saben Lee didn’t come with a reputation as a top-notch playmaker. He was more of a scorer and a combo guard during his three years at Vanderbilt, but Lee – who picked up seven assists, matching his season high, for the second straight game – is actually averaging more assists per 36 minutes than Hayes, 8.0 to 7.4. Lee’s strength and quickness give him the ability to turn the corner and get into the paint and he’s shown a knack for making timely interior passes in close quarters as well as finding 3-point shooters for kickouts. Dwane Casey says his toughness and intelligence are other key factors that have made Lee, taken with the 38th overall pick last November, into an effective point guard. Lee had a good thing going with Tyler Cook – Cook was again the backup center with Jahlil Okafor away from the team for a funeral, Casey said – in pick and roll. Cook finished with a career-best 13 points, making all six of his shots, and grabbed three rebounds in 16 minutes.