Pistons defy long odds, but hit the wall late to end road trip with loss to Clippers
Chris Schwegler (NBAE via Getty Images)
Three quick observations from Sunday night’s 131-124 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center
QUITE THE FIGHT – Wrapping up a five-game, weeklong Western Conference road swing with a back to back against two of the NBA’s most potent offenses seemed a recipe for a long night. The Pistons nearly made it one for the Clippers. They led almost all of the first three quarters and by as many as 12 late in the third quarter – despite the fact the Clippers were shooting 70 percent at the time – on the strength of outstanding 3-point shooting, dominating points off turnovers and phenomenal ball movement. By the time the third quarter ended, all five Pistons starters were in double figures and the Pistons had racked up 99 points. But after making 13 of 26 triples through three quarters, the Pistons went 0 of 4 in the fourth quarter until Wayne Ellington and Saddiq Bey made a pair in the final 20 seconds while the Clippers went 6 of 9 to finish 15 of 26. The Pistons finished with 33 assists on 46 baskets. Saddiq Bey, who led all NBA rookies with 115 made threes to start the day, hit 5 of 8 threes in a 25-point outing that included four steals.Josh Jackson led the Pistons in scoring for the second straight game, finishing with 26 points.
CHANGING OF THE GUARDS – The Pistons kept Killian Hayes out, as they did earlier this week in the second game of a back to back, which coupled with the knee inflammation that made Dennis Smith Jr. inactive again shuffled the backcourt playing group. Wayne Ellington started next to Cory Joseph with Frank Jackson and Saben Lee behind them. All four made significant contributions to one of the best offensive nights the Pistons have had all season, especially considering they were without leading scorer Jerami Grant for a third straight game due to knee soreness. Joseph, continuing his stellar play since being acquired from Sacramento last month, finished with 18 points and 13 assists. Ellington was a part of the 3-point barrage, hitting 5 of 7 from distance in a 15-point outing. Frank Jackson scored 16 off the bench, the fifth time in the last seven games he’s scored in double figures and the 10th time in 16 game since moving into the rotation. And Lee registered six assists to go along with four points in his 16 minutes.
FAMILIAR FACES – “It’s Detroit West,” Dwane Casey said before tipoff of facing a Clippers team with three ex-Pistons – Marcus Morris, Reggie Jackson and Luke Kennard – in the starting lineup. Morris joined the Clippers at the 2020 trade deadline from the Knicks, Jackson signed with them after being bought out by the Pistons last year and Kennard was dealt to the Clippers in November in the deal that brought the Pistons the No. 19 pick used to draft Saddiq Bey. Morris has become a more willing and dangerous 3-point shooter since his time with the Pistons and he hit 6 of 8 from three and led the Clippers with 33 points. Kennard came into the game shooting 47 percent from the 3-point arc this season and he hit 5 of 6 shots overall in an 11-point outing. Jackson, starting in place of the injured Patrick Beverly, contributed 12 points, five rebounds and seven assists. In addition to the three ex-Pistons in their starting lineup, the Clippers have other Detroit and Pistons influences including owner Steve Ballmer, who grew up in Oakland County and attended Detroit Country Day School; general manager Lawrence Frank, ex-Pistons coach; assistant coaches Chauncey Billups and Roy Rogers, who was on Frank’s staff; and director of pro personnel John Loyer, who was on Frank’s staff and later served as interim head coach when Maurice Cheeks was fired during the 2013-14 season.