Too many turnovers, but Pistons rookies continue late-season push in loss to T-wolves

Saddiq Bey
Saddiq Bey scored 21 points and extended his lead over Minnesota’s Anthony Edwards in the rookie 3-point race by making 5 of 8 triples
Chris Schwegler (NBAE via Getty Images)
by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

Sometimes the box score only tells you the outline of the game it documents. And sometimes it tells you the whole story – lock, stock and barrel.

File Tuesday’s 119-100 loss to Minnesota in the latter category – and then file it in the circular file. The Pistons committed a season-high 28 turnovers – they’d matched their previous season high of 24 before the third quarter was finished – in their loss to the Timberwolves, a game with significant draft lottery implications.

Get to the affiliated statistic – “points off of turnovers” – and there you see the story of the game tied in a bright red bow. Minnesota converted the 28 Pistons miscues into 34 points, the Pistons scoring 15 off Minnesota’s 15 turnovers. The 19-point differential in points off turnovers was a dead match for the 19-point differential on the scoreboard when the horn blew.

“Can’t win like that,” Saddiq Bey said. “We talked about it. Too many turnovers. We can’t win like that.”

The Pistons coughed it up 15 times by halftime and trailed by 22 but went on a 12-0 run in the opening three minutes to pull within 10. Where that comeback might have gone is anyone’s guess because the Pistons then turned it over four times in the next three minutes to fuel an 11-0 Timberwolves run that pushed the lead back to 21 and effectively decided the outcome.

“That stretch, we came out with the right sense of purpose, moving the basketball, making the right plays, and then right after that they went on a run because we turned it over,” Dwane Casey said. “We told them they had good defensive hands, but if we move the ball a couple of times you’re gong to get a good shot. You turn the ball over 28 times against anybody in this league, you don’t give yourself a chance to compete.”

The Pistons got their turnovers in a variety of ways – offensive fouls, three seconds, basket interference – but mostly it was dribbling and passing into beehives of trouble. Nobody had it worse than Josh Jackson, who returned from a four-game absence after undergoing oral surgery and looked anxious to cram five games worth of energy into one. He committed seven first-half turnovers on his way to nine for the night.

There were bright spots, mostly produced by the rookies as their most unusual first seasons wind down.

Bey scored 21 points and hit 5 of 8 from the 3-point arc, extending his NBA rookie record of games with five or more made triples to 14. In the process, he widened his lead among NBA rookies in threes to eight over Minnesota’s Anthony Edwards, who hit 2 of 6 in his 22-point outing.

“He’s a great player, a great young guy,” Bey said of Edwards, the No. 1 overall pick last November who is making a strong run to win Rookie of the Year. “He’s going to continue to get better. I try not to focus on anything I can’t control. I’m just focusing on how I can get better with my team.”

Saben Lee scored a career-high 22 points to go with five assists and four rebounds. Killian Hayes finished with 13 points, six rebounds and seven assists. That makes it 13 straight games for Hayes with at least five assists, breaking a tie with Joe Dumars at 12 straight and leaving him trailing only Isiah Thomas, at 17 straight, among Pistons rookies all-time.

And the rookie point guards only contributed a combined six turnovers to the gaudy 28 total, three apiece, not bad at all considering Hayes’ 36 minutes and Lee’s 29.

“His decisions were good,” Casey said of Lee. “He took care of the ball, made the right decision, attacked the rim when it was there and didn’t try to play in a crowd. That’s playing the right way. Moving the ball will do that – the ball will find the right person.”

Hayes continues to get a little more comfortable, a little more decisive when he comes off a screen and has to figure out how far to keep his dribble going.

“That in-between runner, he’s shooting it at like a 31, 32 percent clip,” Casey said. “That one more dribble, getting to the rim or keeping the dribble and kicking it out, the numbers show it’s a higher percentage play. And he’s picking that up – the sooner he does it the better.”

The fourth centerpiece rookie, Isaiah Stewart, finished with 11 points and eight rebounds after his night began with two quick fouls accumulated while guarding former No. 1 overall pick Karl-Anthony Towns, who finished with 28 points and eight rebounds. Towns is a prototype for what Stewart can become on the offensive end, an inside-outside threat.

“He’s an All-Star and a prolific scorer,” Casey said. “Karl is an excellent player. Hopefully, Isaiah learned something from him.”

What they all learned was the sting of handing the other side 28 extra possessions via turnovers. The Pistons rookies have two games left to absorb all the lessons they can handle, but they’re putting together impressive finishing kicks as they’ve been entrusted with more playing time.

“I see it every game,” Stewart said. “Working together. Chemistry is coming. We just continue to try to build on that every game. I feel like all four rookies, we’re not rubbing on top of each other. If anything, we’re helping each other out when we’re out there on the floor.”

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