Plumlee’s triple-double leads Pistons to comeback win over Pelicans
Chris Schwegler (NBAE/Getty)
Three quick observations from Sunday night’s 123-112 win over the New Orleans Pelicans at Little Caesars Arena
HEATING UP – Don’t look now, but the Pistons are 3-1 in their last four games around a trade and a run of injuries that wreaked havoc on their frontcourt. Without Blake Griffin on Sunday, they used incredibly balanced scoring – and Mason Plumlee’s first career triple-double – to withstand a torrid start by New Orleans and overcome a double-digit deficit. Plumlee finished with 17 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists and the Pistons – coming off a big road win at Boston on Friday – had six players score 15 or more points and five players register three or more assists, led by Plumlee’s 10. The 34 assists were a season high and the Pistons hit 17 of 35 from the 3-point arc. The Pistons fell 13 points behind in a first quarter in which New Orleans scored 40 points and shot 79 percent, but they took their first lead in the final minute of the second quarter and led 64-62 at halftime. They stretched their lead to 13 late in the third quarter and were ahead by eight headed to the fourth quarter. The Pistons scored 30 or more points in each of the first three quarters for the first time this season. Saddiq Bey, coming off a 30-point outing at Boston in which he set an NBA rookie record for most 3-pointers made in a game without a miss (seven), hit 4 of 8 from the arc. Josh Jackson led the Pistons with 21 points in 21 minutes off the bench.
FRONTCOURT SHUFFLE – The Pistons played the past two games with only 19-year-old rookie Isaiah Stewart on the depth chart at center, missing both Mason Plumlee and Jahlil Okafor. Okafor won’t be back until sometime in April, but Plumlee returned after missing two games with elbow bursitis. When the Pistons won at Boston on Friday, Blake Griffin played in the second game of a back-to-back set for the first time this season and logged 35 minutes, so he was rested for injury management of his left knee on Sunday. Plumlee was playing his best basketball before his injury – averaging 13.1 points and 9.5 rebounds while shooting 70 percent in the eight games before being sidelined – and the time away didn’t appear to slow his momentum. Plumlee’s big first half (13 points, seven rebounds, five assists) helped the Pistons rally to a halftime lead. The Pistons were also without Sekou Doumbouya for a second straight game with a concussion.
SMITH SETTLING IN – Dennis Smith Jr. is showing signs of solidifying his role as point guard for the second unit. Smith suffered a training-camp injury and then got caught in a numbers game in New York with Elfrid Payton, Frank Ntilikina and rookie Immanuel Quickley all in the mix. Smith played just 28 minutes over three games and asked for a G League assignment, but was traded just as he was coming out of quarantine for the G League Orlando bubble. Dwane Casey saw he needed to get caught up with game conditioning, but after a rusty debut last week against Indiana, Smith picked up five assists in 13 minutes in Friday’s win at Boston and looked more assertive against New Orleans. In 12 minutes, Smith hit 3 of 6 shots and finished with nine points, two assists and two rebounds. Smith was acquired last week from the Knicks, along with a second-round draft choice, in exchange for Derrick Rose. The Pistons bench outscored New Orleans’ second unit 52-28. Late in the third quarter, Smith harassed Pelicans rookie Kira Lewis Jr. into an over-and-back violation, then when Lewis tried to retaliate and pressured Smith, Smith blew past him and fed Isaiah Stewart to lead to two free throws for the rookie center.