Three quick observations from Sunday night’s 120-107 loss to the Miami Heat at Little Caesars Arena
THAT’S A WRAP – Whatever motivation Miami might have had ahead of entering the playoffs all but evaporated with Sunday afternoon’s Knicks win that meant the Heat couldn’t gain home-court advantage as the No. 4 seed with a win against the Pistons. So Miami’s lineup consisted of just two typical starters – Duncan Robinson and Tyler Herro – against a Pistons team with just eight available players after recent injuries to Frank Jackson (ankle) and Deividas Sirvydis (calf), an illness for Sekou Doubouya and the absence of rookie Isaiah Stewart for personal reasons. But the Heat had one big advantage over the Pistons: a starting lineup with superb 3-point threats at three spots in Nemenja Bjelica, Duncan Robinson and Tyler Herro. The Heat jumped to a 32-13 lead after one quarter with the Pistons shooting 20 percent to Miami’s 68 percent with the Heat knocking down 6 of 9 triples in the quarter. Turnovers again were a problem for the Pistons. They committed 16 for 22 Miami points. By virtue of their loss, the Pistons finished with a 20-52 record to lock up the No. 2 position for the June 22 NBA draft lottery. The Pistons will have the same odds as the Houston Rockets, who finished with the worst record, for each of the top four picks: 14.0 percent for the No. 1 pick, 13.4 percent for No. 2, 12.7 percent for No. 3 and 12.0 percent for No. 4. The single most likely outcome for the Pistons is to land the No. 5 pick at 27.8 percent odds. There is a 20 percent chance of the Pistons falling to No. 6, but they could fall no lower than sixth. Had they won and fallen into a tie with Orlando and Oklahoma City, the Pistons could have fallen to eighth.
ROOKIE ROUNDUP – Saddiq Bey entered the night five 3-pointers ahead of Minnesota’s Anthony Edwards for No. 1 among rookies, 171-166, and he added four more to his total in a 22-point outing. Had it been a conventional 82-game season, Bey was on track to set the Pistons single-season record for 3-pointers made. It’s held by Allan Houston with 191 in 1995-96. Blake Griffin (189, 2018-19), Chauncey Billups (184, 2005-06), Terry Mills (175, 1996-97) and Bey now hold the top five spots in Pistons annals. Bey’s 175 was one better than the 174 Reggie Jackson made in 2018-19. Killian Hayes finished with 10 points and four assists.The four assists meant Hayes finished the season with a streak of 15 straight games of at least five assists, second among rookies in Pistons history to Isiah Thomas, who had a 17-game streak in 1981-82. Isaiah Stewart missed the game, his second straight, as he remains away from the team for personal reasons. He finished first among NBA rookies in offensive rebounds (159), rebound average (6.7) and blocked shots (86) and was second to Xavier Tillman in field-goal percentage. Saben Lee, the only one of the four drafted in the second round, finished with 10 points and seven assists.
A STEADY HAND – Cory Joseph was the only player older than 25 who played for the Pistons, who were without veterans Jerami Grant, Mason Plumlee, Wayne Ellington and Rodney McGruder in addition to Dennis Smith Jr., Frank Jackson, Sekou Doumbouya, Deividas Sirvidas and Isaiah Stewart. Joseph finished with 14 points, four rebounds and five assists in 31 minutes in the finale. He has a partially guaranteed season remaining on his contract and it is widely assumed the Pistons – who traded Delon Wright to Sacramento for Joseph and two second-round picks in March – won’t pick up the $12.6 million non-guaranteed portion of his deal to save more than $10 million in cap space over the $2.4 million Joseph is guaranteed. What happens in the draft will go a long way toward determining what the Pistons do beyond bringing back rookies Killian Hayes and Saben Lee at point guard, but if there’s room for a veteran you can be sure Dwane Casey will push for a reunion with Joseph if it’s feasible. Joseph, 29, could be pursued by teams with a more certain rotation role available for him and that would be hard to turn down. But he’s extremely comfortable in Casey’s system from their days together in Toronto and Detroit puts him in proximity to his Ontario roots. Joseph averaged 11.9 points and 5.6 assists in 19 games for the Pistons, up significantly from the 6.6 points and 2.5 assists he averaged in Sacramento this season prior to the trade.