Sluggish start sends Pistons into tailspin as they fall in Memphis
Joe Murphy (NBAE/Getty)
Three quick observations from Monday night’s 127-92 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies at FedEx Forum
SLUGGISH START – Five fouls in the first 77 seconds, including two apiece on second-year players Isaiah Stewart and Killian Hayes, set the tone for a night in which the Pistons seemed a half-step behind every play. The Pistons committed 13 first-half turnovers and shot poorly (3 of 14 from the 3-point arc), the key ingredients in a 24-point halftime deficit. It got momentarily better in the third quarter but went downhill fast again from there. Jerami Grant scored nine points in the first quarter but no other starter scored a point, in part because both Stewart and Hayes went to the bench with their early foul trouble. The anticipated starting unit has yet to be intact as No. 1 pick Cade Cunningham missed his second preseason game with a sprained right ankle. Frank Jackson, who missed the opener also with an ankle injury, drew the start in Cunningham’s spot at Memphis. The third second-year Pistons starter, Saddiq Bey, suffered a left ankle injury in the first half and didn’t return. Grant finished with 13 points to lead Pistons starters, who combined for 41 points. Hayes had six points on 2 of 9 shooting to go with two assists and two steals in 22 minutes. Stewart had six points, four rebounds and three blocked shots in 16 minutes.
BENCH REPORT – Cory Joseph and Kelly Olynyk helped stabilize the game early when they had to come on for foul-plagued starters Killian Hayes and Isaiah Stewart. The two Canadian national team members have palpable chemistry and look like they’ll be the constants on the bench unit that is shaping up to be a strength for the Pistons. Olynyk finished with nine points and four rebounds in 19 minutes, hurt by missing all three of his 3-point attempts, and Joseph with 10 points and three assists in 18 minutes. Olynyk also was tagged with five turnovers, two for offensive fouls. Another staple of the unit, Josh Jackson, also was one of the bright spots of the night. Jackson, who started in Bey’s place in the second half, had 11 points, six rebounds and a team-high four assists. Hamidou Diallo, who matched Olynyk’s five turnovers, finished with 13 points. Trey Lyles, like Olynyk and Joseph a member of the Canadian national team program, rounds out the second unit. He contributed six points and five rebounds in 24 minutes. Rookies Luka Garza and Jamorko Pickett again got spot minutes.
SECOND THOUGHTS – If they had it to do over again, Dwane Casey says, the Pistons probably would have scheduled another preseason game or two. Not all that long ago, NBA teams routinely played eight preseason games. But when the NBA decided to extend the All-Star break, it came at the expense of shortening the time from the start of training camps to the regular-season opener and nobody plays eight preseason games any longer. In fact, the Pistons are one of 21 teams that play only four preseason games this season with six others playing five and three teams – Memphis, Miami and the Los Angeles Lakers – playing six. Casey thought a young team would benefit from more practice time, but now with Cade Cunningham sidelined and potentially about to miss at least the first three preseason games, Casey has had second thoughts. “Woulda, coulda, shoulda had a couple more so a guy like Cade or Killian could get an extra couple of games. That’s something we have to keep in mind with this new format as far as preseason games are concerned. Going into it, it looked like on paper with our group the practice time would be more valuable. That was a tough decision and it’s something we have to really evaluate going forward.” In addition to Cunningham missing the first two preseason games and Killian Hayes missing the first, both Hayes and Isaiah Stewart picked up two fouls within the first two minutes at Memphis and were limited to nine and six first-half minutes, respectively.