Three quick observations from Monday night’s 109-105 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers at Little Caesars Arena
ROOKIE REVIEW – If you were going to do the 2020 draft over based on the first nine minutes of Monday’s win, Killian Hayes, Isaiah Stewart and Saddiq Bey might go 1-2-3 – in any order you care to choose. The three Pistons rookie first-rounders were magnificent as they helped the Pistons build a 23-point lead. When the Cavs called timeout with 3:30 left in the quarter, trailing 32-9, Bey had outscored them 15-9, Stewart had outrebounded them 7-5 and Hayes had picked up three more assists, 5-2, than the Cavs team. The Pistons were without seven players who’ve been part of the rotation: starters Jerami Grant, Mason Plumlee and Cory Joseph plus Wayne Ellington, Sekou Doumbouya, Dennis Smith Jr. and Rodney McGruder. And against a Cleveland team fielding its usual starting lineup, the Cavs got back in the game by halftime, trailing by nine. It was tied with 30 seconds to go when Frank Jackson sliced across the baseline to score, drawing a foul in the process and seeing his missed free throw pay off when the Pistons converted the offensive rebound into a Josh Jackson layup. Frank Jackson and Bey finished with 20 points each to lead six Pistons in double figures. Stewart finished with 18 points and 16 rebounds, giving him his third straight double-double and his seventh this season, plus three blocks and three steals. He’s averaged 17.3 points and 16.3 rebounds over the last three games, two as the starter. Hayes established career highs in points (12), assists (nine) and minutes (34).
BEY GETS THE RECORD – Saddiq Bey’s early 3-point barrage took all the suspense out of his chase of an NBA rookie record. He came into the game tied with Coby White (2019-20) and Juan Carlos Navarro (2007-08) for the most games with at least six 3-point makes at four and had the record to himself before the first quarter was out, making his first six triples. Bey came into the game trailing Minnesota’s Anthony Edwards, the No. 1 overall pick, by three, 129-126, among rookies in 3-pointers made. He’s already set the Pistons rookie record for triples in a season, previously held by Brandon Knight at 105. Bey also joined Knight in Pistons history for another reason, the 18 points he scored in Monday’s first quarter the most for a Pistons rookie in any quarter since Knight did it on April 17, 2012, also against Cleveland. Bey missed his last five 3-pointers to finish 6 of 11, but converted two big fourth-quarter free throws after being fouled while shooting a 3-pointer.
COOK REPORT – Tyler Cook has worn the uniform of four NBA teams – Cleveland, Denver and Brooklyn before landing with the Pistons – but Monday was his first career start. With Jerami Grant and Sekou Doumbouya both out and the Pistons needing a physical component to match up with Cavs veteran Kevin Love, Cook – a powerfully built 6-foot-8, 255-pounder – got the call. Playing in his 19th game since being signed by the Pistons last month to two 10-day contracts and subsequently to a deal for the rest of 2020-21 and beyond, Cook finished with 12 points, three rebounds and two assists in a season-high 30 minutes. His four first-half baskets all came on dunks by running the floor and cutting to the basket, making himself a target to lobs. In fact, all six of Cook’s baskets came on dunks. Cook stays in his lane, plays hard and plays with the type of physical presence Casey – who has lauded Cook’s basketball IQ and toughness – admires.