Plenty of help for Grant these days as Pistons make it 2 straight by dropping Pelicans
Chris Schwegler (NBAE/Getty)
For the first third of the season, if the Pistons didn’t get 25 points – efficient points, at that – from Jerami Grant, they were going to struggle to stay in games long enough to have a chance to win them.
And now, suddenly, they’ve won two straight with Grant scoring 15 each time. Their balance was striking and pronounced in Sunday’s win over New Orleans. Mason Plumlee grabs the headline with his first career triple-double – 17 points, 10 boards, 10 assists – but virtually every one of the nine players Dwane Casey used on a night Blake Griffin rested made a mark on the 123-112 win over New Orleans.
Six players scored 15 or more points. The 34 assists tied a season high. The Pistons nailed 17 of 35 3-point shots with everyone who played making one except the two centers, Plumlee and Isaiah Stewart.
And much of it, Casey believes, is because of the way defenses have adjusted to make Grant a focal point of their game plan and the opportunities that presents others.
“He’s a great player. He’s not the Jerami Grant of Denver,” Casey said as the Pistons won consecutive games for the first time in 2020-21. “He’s a blooming star. He’s seeing the best defenses. He’s seeing double teams and to his credit he’s moving the ball. Now teams are going to have to make a decision – send extra bodies to him or give up open threes.”
The Pistons, as they did in Boston, fell behind by double digits in the first quarter but, as they have all season, never were deterred. They took the lead by halftime, pushed it to double digits in the third quarter and weathered New Orleans’ best punch when the lead was cut to five in the fourth quarter.
“The whole roster is new to each other. We kind of knew it was going to take some time,” Plumlee said of the recent surge. “We have high expectations of us internally. We’re only going to get better as we go through the season. It’s nice to see some improvement in wins, but we’re not where we’re going to be.”
Saddiq Bey, coming off his 30-point night at Boston in which he set a rookie record for made threes (seven) without a miss, was superb again as the fill-in starter for Griffin. He finished with 16 points, four rebounds, six assists and four steals, hitting 4 of 8 from the 3-point arc.
Delon Wright put together another line that was both eyebrow-raising and understated: 17 points, seven rebounds, six assists, one turnover in 36 minutes. His backup, recently acquired Dennis Smith Jr., appears to be settling in nicely with the second unit, scoring nine points in 12 minutes.
The bench – led by Josh Jackson’s team-leading 21 points and Svi Mykhailiuk’s 18 – outscored New Orleans’ bench 52-28.
“Any coach will tell you, when you bring guys off the bench you want them to add energy to the game, not take away,” Jackson said. “Everybody coming off the bench, that’s exactly what our job is. That’s just what we try to do.”
Mykhailiuk has been mired in a season-long 3-point slump, coming into the game at 31.4 percent after shooting 40.4 percent in a breakthrough second season. He admitted that he’s been rushing that shot of late, perhaps taking some ill-advised triples to jump start himself, but appeared at ease and willing to put the ball on the floor to counter aggressive close-outs in Sunday’s win.
“I think, yeah, sometimes I (rushed shots),” Mykhailiuk said. “I’ve just got to keep shooting the ball. Sometimes it’s going to go in. … I feel everybody’s trying to win, no matter who’s scoring and who’s touching the ball. It’s making it easier for everybody to make shots and feel good.”
With Plumlee and Wright finding traction as veteran anchors, Bey hitting his stride and Jackson emerging as a steady two-way star off the bench, if Mykhailiuk finds his niche and Smith acclimates as he appears to be, Grant is going to have enough around him where the Pistons can win without needing him to go past 20 points every night.
“All those things are byproducts of teams loading up on Jerami,” Casey said. “He still gets 15 points and we get the win. That’s the mark of a star. The key is taking what the game games you and Jerami’s doing a beautiful job of that. He did a beautiful job of that tonight and also the other night in Boston.”