Dwane Casey looked at Friday night in Boston not with fear and dread but with curiosity and anticipation. Down to only one big man – and a 19-year-old rookie, at that – and two power forwards, one of them playing for the first time all season in a back to back?
You can either gnash your teeth or challenge your team to embrace the moment and relish the opportunity to step outside of their boundaries.
Against that backdrop, Saddiq Bey gave the Pistons enough good vibes to last the rest of February. Playing his first game in a city where the basketball ghosts have deep roots, Bey had a night that put him in the Pistons record book.
Bey became the first Pistons rookie to score 30 points since Kentavious Caldwell-Pope did it in 2014. Only two others in the last 30 years – Grant Hill and Allan Houston – are in that club. Bey’s seven triples were the most ever for a Pistons rookie, breaking a record he shared at six.
Saddiq Bey Record Setting Seven 3-pointers vs Boston Celtics
“He played unbelievable,” said Delon Wright, who had a large hand in Friday’s improbable 108-102 win with 22 points, six rebounds and seven assists, hitting 7 of 9 shots and 7 of 8 free throws. “Come in here and go 7 for 7 from 3? Much needed.”
“So proud of him,” Casey said. “That young man is a worker. He’s diligent. He’s serious about his craft. You love him.”
The Pistons were up against it even before tipoff, playing a back to back after traveling from Detroit after Thursday’s loss to Indiana and doing so without veteran centers Mason Plumlee (elbow bursitis) and Jahlil Okafor (knee surgery) and also missing Sekou Doumbouya (concussion). Blake Griffin hadn’t played a back to back yet this season, but he gutted out 35 minutes and helped spark a 10-2 run that gave the Pistons the lead for good midway through the third quarter by taking three – three! – charges in a matter of minutes.
“What Blake’s been through and what he had to do to get back on the court says a lot for him,” Casey said. “He’s special in that way. He’s put a lot of time in. To go out tonight and get three charges – doesn’t show up on the stat sheet, but three very important plays for us.”
Three very important plays to put the Pistons in position to win, but Bey’s 19-point first half to help the Pistons survive a very shaky start – rookie Isaiah Stewart, the only center still standing, picked up two quick fouls and the Pistons trailed 14-4 out of the chute – and his dagger triple with 38 seconds left to double a three-point lead made it Bey’s night.
“I’m more happy about the win, for sure,” said Bey, who practically recoils when forced to talk about himself. “This is a blessing, to be able to play this game each and every day for a living. I try to stay even-keeled as much as possible. That’s kind of the mentality I have because there’s so many games.”
Bey started his NBA career by making the game look easy, scoring in double figures in seven of his first nine games and shooting 45 percent from the 3-point arc. But then came a two-week stretch where he looked less sure of himself, hesitant to shoot and indecisive in his actions. All along, Casey insisted he had no concerns about Bey’s mental toughness or lacked faith in his ability to bounce back.
Sure enough, Bey was a perfect 6 of 6 from the floor, including three triples, to spark Tuesday’s win over Brooklyn with a 15-point fourth quarter, came back with 10 points in Thursday’s loss to Indiana and then enjoyed his signature night against an iconic franchise in his first visit as a pro to TD Garden.
“It means a lot. This is a storied franchise, man,” Bey said of setting the Pistons record for triples in a game by a rookie. “Honored and blessed, but I know I’ve got to keep working and get better each and evdery day to try to help this team win and just be the best player I can possibly be.”
“He’s a competitor. He’s a special competitor,” Casey said. “He didn’t lose confidence and he stayed with it. Once he gets his feet set, he’s one of those guys, you feel good when he lets it go. He believes in himself. We believe in him. He’s just scratching the surface. I told him after the game – stay hungry, stay humble.”