Thinned-out Pistons short of firepower as Spurs bounce back from big loss


Three quick observations from Monday night’s 109-99 loss to the San Antonio Spurs at Little Caesars Arena

THINNED OUT – With Wayne Ellington sitting out with a groin strain, Svi Mykhailiuk traded and the player the Pistons got back, Hamidou Diallo, not yet available with another groin injury, the Pistons were thin on the wings for Monday’s game with San Antonio. The Spurs, coming off a 35-point loss Sunday at Philadelphia though firmly in the playoff hunt in the West with a 20-16 record, played with the type of intensity Dwane Casey told the Pistons to expect and made it tough on the Pistons to generate anything they could count on in their half-court offense. Jerami Grant, the Pistons leading scorer at 23.6 points per game, was injured late in the third quarter when he hit the court hard in the aftermath of trying to score at the rim. He didn’t return, finishing with 14 points in 27 minutes. Rodney McGruder, who’d played in only 14 of the first 38 games but has recently become a key contributor off of Dwane Casey’s bench, drew the start next to Delon Wright in the backcourt and Frank Jackson – who’s played in nine games and last appeared on Feb. 24 – was the backup at shooting guard. In the second half, Casey utilized a lineup with both point guards, Delon Wright and Saben Lee, for a long stretch of the third quarter.

INJURY REPORT – Dwane Casey said before the game that he didn’t think Wayne Ellington’s groin injury was something that would cause him to miss much time. “He’s a little sore. I would say it’s not going to be anything long-term. We’ll see how he feels tomorrow.” Ellington leads the Pistons in 3-point shooting, hitting 42.2 percent for the season, and he’s second in attempts per game (6.4) to Jerami Grant’s 6.8. Without Ellington, the Pistons suffered to generate much in the way of perimeter scoring. Averaging 36 3-point attempts per game, the Pistons were held to just 25 attempts. It was just the ninth time this season the Pistons were held to fewer than 30 3-point attempts and only the sixth time they’ve made fewer than 10 triples. Hamidou Diallo, meanwhile, is also dealing with a groin injury that caused him to miss his last five games with Oklahoma City. Diallo last played on Feb. 24. He was in the Pistons bench area during Monday’s game, so he’s cleared COVID-19 protocols and his availability is strictly dependent on return from injury.

DEFENSE DENTED – The Pistons know they can’t win shootouts with their roster missing 3-point punch and they came down to the final minute with a chance to win in each of their first two games coming out of the All-Star break despite averaging less than 100 points. But they gave up just 105 to Charlotte and 100 to the NBA’s highest-scoring team, Brooklyn, in narrow losses. The defense took a hit against San Antonio, though, as the Spurs spread the floor with four perimeter players – Lonnie Walker IV, Keldon Johnson, Dejounte Murray and Devin White – and scored 34 first-half points in the paint while shooting 59 percent. San Antonio scored 60 points in the first half and tacked on another 35 in the third quarter. The Spurs finished with 60 points in the paint – the Pistons had 62, but got outscored by 15 from the 3-point line – and shot 56.6 percent for the game, including 12 of 25 percent from the 3-point arc.