Turnover trouble, short bench dooms undermanned Pistons in loss to Timberwolves
Chris Schwegler (NBAE via Getty Images)
Three quick observations from Tuesday night’s 119-100 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves at Little Caesars Arena
TURNOVER TROUBLES – The Pistons have led the NBA in bench scoring for most of the season, averaging 41.6 points through the first 69 games. But it wasn’t hard to guess that it was going to be difficult matching that average in Game 70 given that most of the players who contributed to the league-leading number were either in the starting lineup or unavailable. The Pistons got Josh Jackson back after he’d missed the previous four games due to oral surgery and he moved into the starting lineup. But Frank Jackson, the bellwether of the bench since joining the rotation 30 games ago, was out with a sprained ankle – as was Jerami Grant, Mason Plumlee, Wayne Ellington, Cory Joseph, Dennis Smith Jr. and Rodney McGruder. Turnovers – 15 in the first half alone, seven of them charged to Jackson – dug a big hole for the Pistons, who trailed by 22 at halftime. They opened the second half with a 12-0 run in the first three minutes to get the deficit back to 10, but then five more turnovers fueled a quick 11-0 answering run for Minnesota. By the time the third quarter was out, the Pistons had matched their season high of 24 turnovers – and that required double overtime in the season’s second game back on Dec. 26. They finished with a frightening total: 28. The game had significant lottery implications as the Pistons entered with 20 wins and Minnesota as one of four teams – Cleveland, Orlando and Oklahoma City the others – with 21. Houston has locked up the No. 1 spot going into the June 22 lottery. The Pistons are currently in the No. 2 spot. Saben Lee led the Pistons bench scoring with career-high 22 points and hit 8 of 8 free throws. Killian Hayes finished with 15 points, six rebounds and six assists, his six assists extending his streak of games with at least five assists to 13. Only Isiah Thomas, with 17 games, has a longer such streak among Pistons rookies.
ROOKIE MATCHUPS – Saddiq Bey carried a cushion of five made 3-pointers over Minnesota’s Anthony Edwards into Tuesday’s game, 164-159, for the lead among all NBA rookies. He came out of the night upping his lead over Edwards to eight. It was the 14th game this season for Bey with at least five 3-pointers made, an NBA rookie record. Bey spent much of the night guarding Edwards, the No. 1 overall pick after one year at Georgia, but Edwards was assigned to guard fellow rookie Killian Hayes at the other end to start the game and also spent time on Josh Jackson. They’re both doing it on high volume, Edwards at 7.2 per game and Bey at 6.4. Edwards has played nearly 400 more minutes than Bey. Bey had an atypical night in that he committed four turnovers – three in the first half - after coming into the game committing less than one (0.8) per game for the season. Edwards has put himself firmly in the running for the NBA Rookie of the Year award with a strong second half of the season. He came into the game averaging 18.9 points, 4.9 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game. Bey is, at minimum, a strong contender for the NBA All-Rookie first team. Bey’s five triples came on eight tries, Edwards’ two on six attempts.
ROLE MODEL – If there’s a center whose offensive game the Pistons can hope for Isaiah Stewart to emulate, it would be Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns. Alas, Stewart got hit with two fouls trying to guard Towns in the first 4:30 and subsequently didn’t spend as much time gong up against him as expected. Towns, the first overall pick in the 2015 draft, came into the game averaging 24.9 points and 10.6 rebounds and had a fairly typical Towns game: 28 points on 10 of 19 shooting, 4 of 11 from the 3-point arc, with eight rebounds and five assists. Stewart had difficulty finishing inside early in Tuesday’s game against Minnesota’s size, but stepped outside after re-entering the game in the second quarter to knock down a triple set up by Killian Hayes. He finished with 11 points and eight rebounds. Towns shot relatively few 3-pointers early in his career – one a game as a rookie – but last season shot a career-high 44.5 percent of his shots from the 3-point arc. That’s come down to 35.7 percent this season, but that’s still 6.3 3-point attempts per game. Stewart took relatively few over the first 60 games this season, 28, but had taken 31 in the last nine games coming into Tuesday and went 1 of 4 against Minnesota.