Three quick observations from Saturday night’s 107-94 loss to the Charlotte Hornets at Spectrum Center
FIGHT TO THE FINISH – It wasn’t so much that the Pistons didn’t have enough bodies – though they were perilously close to that with eight players injured or otherwise unavailable – as the ones they had were put in unaccustomed roles. The Pistons battled to the finish, the trademark of their season, but absent so many key players – for the first time, the veterans were held out for a second consecutive game – they needed scoring from players not generally relied upon to shoulder major offensive roles. Jerami Grant and his 22-plus points a game were among the missing elements, leaving Josh Jackson and his 13.6 points a game as the leading scorer in the lineup. And Jackson – perhaps because it was easy for Charlotte to swing its focus to him without Grant to command attention – had a quiet night, not scoring until midway through the third quarter and finishing with five points. The Pistons fell 21 points behind midway through the third quarter, rallied to within three with nine minutes to play but allowed a 13-0 Charlotte run at that point. Frank Jackson scored a season-high 25 off the bench and Saddiq Bey added 22 for the Pistons. The Hornets, who went into the game in the No. 8 spot in the East by a game over Indiana, got back two players who’d been out for several weeks with injuries, rookie LaMelo Ball and Malik Monk. Rookie Killian Hayes had a strong finish to the game and wound up with 10 points, six rebounds and six assists. That makes eight straight games with at least five assists for Hayes, the first Pistons rookie with such a streak since Joe Dumars in 1985-86. Hayes, Dumars and Isiah Thomas are the only rookies in Pistons histories with such streaks.
LOUSY TIMING – With both veteran centers, Mason Plumlee and Jahlil Okafor, among the eight Pistons who were unavailable at Charlotte, it was a bad night for rookie Isaiah Stewart to get in early foul trouble. Stewart picked up his second at 6:48 of the first quarter. The Pistons trailed by eight after the quarter as Charlotte closed on a 9-0 run with the Pistons shooting just 29 percent in the first. Stewart returned to start the second quarter and scored seven points as the Pistons surged back for a 32-30 lead. But with 8:18 to play in the first half, a Miles Bridges 3-pointer dropped through the rim to put Charlotte back ahead by a point and Stewart was whistled for a foul on the play as he jostled with Bismack Biyombo for rebound position. That triple began a 17-2 Charlotte run with Stewart on the bench for the remainder of the half. At halftime, the Pistons had only been outscored by two points in the 11 minutes Stewart logged but by 14 points in the 13 minutes he sat with foul trouble. Stewart picked up a fourth foul four minutes into the third quarter and sat the rest of that quarter, too. Tyler Cook served as the backup center and finished with 12 points and seven rebounds, each matching his season high. Stewart finished with nine points, two rebounds and three blocked shots.
SIRVIDYS SIGHTING – With just nine available players, it was no surprise when rookie Deividas Sirvydis nearly matched his season high for minutes played in the first half with eight. The Pistons had hoped the 20-year-old Lithuanian, the 38th pick in the 2019 NBA draft, would spend the season marinating in the G League but when that option went away due to the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on the league, he’s been limited to practices, a ton of individual skills work and sporadic appearances in 15 games prior to his run in Charlotte. Sirvydis brings great size on the wing at 6-foot-8 and potentially elite 3-point shooting. Strength and his ability to defend will determine how big an impact he’ll have in the NBA, but it will be a big summer for him. He participated in 2019 Summer League and spent the 2019-20 season in the Lithuanian domestic league before signing with the Pistons last fall. Sirvydis didn’t get off the bench in the second half, finishing with three rebounds. He missed his only shot, a 3-pointer.