How completely did the Pistons overhaul their roster in the off-season? Here’s one dramatic way to look at it: Of the 119 points they scored in Monday’s win over Philadelphia, 105 were scored by newcomers.
Another way to look at it is that with so many newcomers, there were bound to be growing pains and not every night is going to follow Dwane Casey’s offensive blueprint as beautifully as this one did. The Pistons took more than half of their shots from the 3-point arc (38 of 70, making 17 of them) and got to the foul line 38 times (and made 32) to snap a four-game losing streak that encompassed a lot of bad luck and underscored the difficulty of putting a new team together on the fly.
“I feel like most of the games, we have little stretches where we’ll have some good possessions offensively,” said Delon Wright, one of the newcomers, who played his best game of the season. “Tonight we strung enough together offensively to get a good lead and continued to push the lead.”
Wright was a big part of that. Taking over as starting point guard after rookie Killian Hayes was injured earlier this month, he played his best game in a Pistons uniform with a season-high 28 points, seven rebounds and nine assists.
“We didn’t do a good job in the last game. We were 4 of 20 on floaters – the most inefficient shot in the game,” Casey said. “A good defensive team will give you those floaters and long twos all night. Tonight, Delon did a magnificent job of recognizing those situations and not putting himself in trouble and, consequently, he gets 28 points and nine assists. I thought he did a magnificent job.”
Wright’s co-stars were two other newcomers, Jerami Grant and Wayne Ellington. Grant finished with 25 points, eight rebounds and five assists one game after having his streak of 20-point scoring games snapped at 16.
Ellington had made a franchise-record 21 3-pointers over his last four games and kicked it up a notch, hitting 6 of 9 3-pointers in his 20-point outing. Ellington is now shooting a preposterous 51.9 percent from the 3-point arc for the season.
“I really haven’t even grasped what he’s doing until people said it to me,” Wright said of his backcourt partner. “We want to keep giving him the ball. He’s a great shooter. He helps our offense flow and it’s great to have him out there with us.”
“I had Ray Allen (in Seattle) and Dirk Nowitzki (in Dallas) and he’s right in that class as far as a shooter,” Casey said. “This league is about 3-point shooting today. Offense today is so far ahead of the defense, you’ve got to have guys like Wayne. He’s a great leader, a positive person. He’s been a godsend.”
Wright, Grant and Ellington combined for 73 points on just 35 shot attempts, making 21 of them. Grant went 10 of 10 at the foul line and Wright 8 of 9. Wright also hit 4 of 8 triples, Grant 3 of 6 to tie Jerry Stackhouse’s franchise record of 16 straight games with at least two made 3-pointers. Ellington’s 3-point threat and Wright looking to score – he admits his nature is to look for the pass first – and doing it effectively open the floor for Grant, whose off-the-dribble scoring has been a revelation.
“Everybody knows his track record,” Grant said of Ellington’s 3-point threat and its impact on the starting unit. “The way he shoots the ball spaces out the court for everybody.”
Monday’s game was an anomaly for the way the Pistons season has gone, only the third game of their 17 that was decided by more than 10 points. To give you an idea of the type of buzzard’s luck they’ve had, two of those three games were Pistons wins. Only one of their 13 losses has come by more than 10 points.
“We want to make this our normal thing,” Wright said of winning. “We don’t want to celebrate a win; we want to continue to get wins. We have some veterans here who’ve been on good teams, so we know what it takes to get wins. We have a lot of young players. We want to make this a normal thing for them and build on it.”
“I think our record doesn’t really show how we’ve been playing,” Grant said. “Some games we have mental lapses that kind of cost the game, but overall we’ve been playing well. We’ve been getting better. Tonight was one of our better games as a whole.”