Three quick observations from Tuesday night’s 122-111 win over the Brooklyn Nets at Little Caesars Arena
NET GAIN – The Pistons made the Brooklyn Nets look very much like the NBA’s second-worst defense, scoring 122 points, but didn’t allow the Nets to resemble the league’s top-scoring offense. Sure, the Nets were without Kevin Durant, but they don’t lack for firepower when James Harden and Kyrie Irving are in the lineup. And even if Harden and Irving combined for 51 points, the Pistons were able to blunt their effectiveness. It took Irving 28 shots to get his 27 points, while the Pistons limited Harden to 1 of 4 from the 3-point line in his 24-point outing. Jerami Grant scored 32 to tie his career high for a second straight game, the 20th game in 24 starts that he’s scored at least 20 points this season after starting the night tied for fifth in the NBA in that category. Grant hit 4 of 8 from the 3-point arc, giving him 23 straight games with multiple 3-pointers made – the longest such streak in Pistons history. And if you think Grant had the luxury of taking it easy on the defensive end, nope. He spent most of his time guarding Harden. Saddiq Bey came off the bench to hit all six of his shots, half from the 3-point line, in a 15-point outing. The Pistons shot 67 percent in their highest-scoring first quarter of the year, 38 points, and led 49-29 three minutes into the second quarter on the first career 3-pointer for Isaiah Stewart. Offense didn’t come quite that easy the rest of the night – the Nets started Bruce Brown in the second half after he came off the bench in the first and put him on Grant, who scored 12 points in the third quarter – but the Pistons still had 94 points after three quarters, their highest total of the season.
DELAYED DEBUT – Dennis Smith Jr., acquired from the Knicks in Monday’s trade for Derrick Rose, was inactive for Tuesday’s game. Dwane Casey said before the game he hoped Smith would be available for Wednesday’s practice ahead of Thursday’s game with Indiana. Without Smith, Dwane Casey again used Rodney McGruder as the backup point guard in the first half and then went with rookie Saben Lee at that spot in the second half. Lee came out to start the fourth quarter and – with Jerami Grant catching his breath after playing all of the third quarter – helped the Pistons extend their lead to 12 points after the Nets opened the quarter with a James Harden triple to pull within five. The Pistons were also without Frank Jackson (illness) and Jahlil Okafor (left knee soreness) in addition to the long-term injury to rookie Killian Hayes.
WRIGHT’S STUFF – Delon Wright does a little of everything but usually doesn’t do anything loudly enough to command attention. But Dwane Casey, his coach in Toronto and a proponent of acquiring Wright over the off-season, appreciates thoroughly his contributions. Wright, coming off a 22-point, 10-assist game in Saturday’s double-overtime loss to the Lakers, gave the Pistons another typically even performance against Brooklyn. Wright came into the game 15th in the NBA in steals, averaging 1.5 a game, and had his fourth straight game with multiple steals. Over that time, he’s averaged three steals a game. Wright is averaging 9.3 points, 4.5 rebounds and 4.7 assists a game. He finished with 22 points, nine assists and four rebounds. “He’s settling in,” Casey said. “He’s relaxing and kind of taking what the game is giving him, understanding his teammates better. I’ve watched Delon grow over the years. The most important thing is getting to know his teammates. It’s good to see him comfortable with the ball, commanding the ball and running the show on his terms.”