Pistons overcome injuries, trade-deadline distractions in win over Suns
Chris Schwegler (NBAE/Getty)
Three quick observations from Wednesday night’s 116-108 win over the Phoenix Suns at Little Caesars Arena
SUN BLOCKERS – Two teams wracked by injuries and upended by rampant trade rumors met with Thursday’s 3 p.m. deadline for deals looming and played about as evenly as you might have expected given the similarities of their straits. Maybe it was the home court that tipped it or maybe it was Andre Drummond’s 31 points and 19 rebounds or Reggie Jackson’s 25 points and 10 assists. The Pistons won their second straight home game despite again suiting up without five of their most gifted scorers in Blake Griffin, Luke Kennard, Derrick Rose, Markieff Morris and Svi Mykhailiuk. Despite that, they racked up 38 points and 14 assists in the first quarter and led for the majority of the game. A sign of how affected by injury the season has been: The Pistons have used 26 unique starting lineups this season, the most for the franchise since the 1996-97 season and three more than the next-closest NBA team this season. The win over Phoenix was the sixth straight time they’ve beaten the Suns and the first among them that wasn’t by double digits.
DRAFT DECISIONS – The 2015 draft played prominently in this matchup – both for who was there and who wasn’t. The Pistons had the eighth pick that year and took Stanley Johnson, whom they traded almost exactly a year ago (Feb. 7) for Thon Maker. At the time, Stan Van Gundy said it had been a down-to-the-wire decision between Johnson and Devin Booker. Booker wound up going 13th to Phoenix and has emerged as one of the best scorers in the NBA, averaging 26.8 points this season and 22.2 for his career. Booker finished with 22 points, guarded for much of the game by Bruce Brown, whose fourth-quarter blocked shot that led to a Langston Galloway layup coming at a critical juncture. Two spots after Booker was selected, Atlanta took Kelly Oubre with the 15th pick and traded him to Washington. Oubre didn’t flower as quickly as Booker, but he’s since emerged as a quality wing player and 3-point shooter. Oubre, averaging 18.5 points this season and 10.7 for his career, scored 30 points to lead Phoenix and hit 5 of 9 3-point shots. Johnson signed a minimum contract with Toronto last season but has played sparingly for the Raptors, spending time with their G League affiliate.
TWO-WAY LOOKS – With Derrick Rose missing his second consecutive game with a groin injury, Dwane Casey – who used just eight players in Monday’s loss at Memphis – expanded his rotation and gave two-way player Jordan Bone seven minutes, all in the first half. Casey has twice remarked in Bone appearances over the past month that the rookie looked like he was too hyped up and playing out of character and that might have been the case for his first few minutes upon entering the game late in the first quarter. Bone got up three shots in a hurry, missing two perimeter shots and one hurried drive, but made better decisions later on two cross-court passes to an open Reggie Jackson, who made one 3-pointer and missed another. Bone is limited to 45 days with the Pistons as a two-way player and Casey said two weeks ago that he’d used about half of his allotted time. Louis King, the other Pistons two-way player, didn’t play in the first half but was first off the bench in the second, entering four minutes into the third quarter. King missed his first 3 pointer but hit his second, then was hit with a technical foul – apparently for taunting when he held three fingers up in passing near Kelly Oubre, though King and Casey both argued the merits of the call – as he headed downcourt. King finished with three points in five minutes.