Pistons – all 9 of ’em – put up a fight but can’t quite get over the hump at OKC
Zach Beeker/NBAE/Getty Images
Three quick observations from Friday night’s 108-101 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder at Chesapeake Energy Arena
POST-DRUMMOND ERA – The post-Andre Drummond era began at Oklahoma City though it began with nearly half of the roster – eight of the 17 players on the 15-man roster plus the two two-way players – unavailable. It was the fifth game this season played without Drummond and, counterintuitively, the Pistons outrebounded the opponent in three of the first four of them. They were within a rebound at halftime and within three after three quarters. It wound up a 42-37 advantage for Oklahoma City with the Thunder picking up a number of deep offensive rebounds in the fourth quarter to pull ahead. The Pistons gave up too many second-chance points (22), but scored a ton of their own (21). They fell behind by 13 points late in the third quarter but pulled within four with more than two minutes left, but didn’t score on their next two possessions as the Thunder doubled their lead. Tony Snell had a chance to cut the deficit to two but missed a 3-pointer with 20 seconds to play. Where Drummond’s absence was felt most prominently was defending the brute-strong Stephen Adams in the post. Adams exceeded his scoring average of 10.7 in the first half and finished with 16. Thon Maker, who started at center, topped his season high of 15 points in the first half, as well, when he scored 16 of his 19. Christian Wood started at power forward and filled in at center – they were the only two big men Dwane Casey had available – and he put up a Drummond-like stat line: 27 points, 12 rebounds and five assists. Reggie Jackson scored 28, 15 in the fourth quarter, and heated up after missing his first four 3-point shots, hitting his next three.
THAT’S 27 – In the season’s 54th game, the Pistons trotted out their 27th different starting lineup – or a new starting lineup every other game. This one, necessitated by Thursday’s trade of Andre Drummond, included Thon Maker, Christian Wood, Tony Snell, Bruce Brown and Reggie Jackson. Until John Henson – half of the return, along with ex-Piston Brandon Knight, for Drummond – is available to play or Markieff Morris returns from illness, the Pistons are short up front. The Pistons had just nine players available for Friday’s game and that included two-way players Jordan Bone and Louis King. Blake Griffin, Luke Kennard, Morris, Svi Mykhailiuk, Derrick Rose and Khyri Thomas were all unavailable due to injury or illness. Conversely, Oklahoma City’s injury report didn’t have take up nearly as much space. The only player unavailable to the Thunder was wing Andre Roberson.
YOUTH MOVEMENT? – The Pistons have called the phase they’re entering a rebuild, but that doesn’t mean Dwane Casey is going to substantially alter his lineups or shuffle playing time much. The young players the Pistons have are already playing significant minutes. Christian Wood will play more with Andre Drummond missing. Svi Mykhailiuk was playing 30 minutes a game for the past month-plus before being hurt last week with a hip injury. Sekou Doumbouya is a part-time starter and full-time member of the rotation. Bruce Brown has been a staple all season. “We’re going to sort of be the same team that you’ve seen the last few weeks,” Dwane Casey said. “Similar roles for everybody.” Two-way players Jordan Bone and Louis King will need to spend more time in the G League as they begin to approach their 45-day limit for time spent with the parent NBA team. King played seven minutes and finished scoreless with two rebounds, missing both of his shots. Bone picked up three fouls in four first-half minutes and finished scoreless (0 of 2) in 10 minutes, registering one assist.