Zone slows down the Suns, Grant shows why Pistons pursued him in OT win
Chris Schwegler (NBAE/Getty)
Three quick observations from Friday night’s 110-105 overtime win over the Phoenix Suns at Little Caesars Arena
ZONED OUT – Phoenix scored 54 points in the game’s first 18 minutes and led by 23 when Dwane Casey burned his second timeout of the second quarter with the Suns on a 33-11 run. With not much to lose, Casey switched the Pistons into a zone defense, something he’s used sparingly this season. It worked so beautifully, the Suns scored just 39 points over the final 30 minutes of regulation and the Pistons won it in overtime. Jerami Grant finished with 31 points and 10 rebounds, the eighth straight game he’s scored 20 or more points. For good measure, when the Pistons switched back to man to man late, it was Grant hounding Suns star Devin Booker. The Pistons opened overtime on a 9-0 run, getting two big baskets from rookie Saddiq Bey, but Phoenix pulled within four points with 1:15 to play. Grant then offered further validation why the Pistons made him their big target in free agency, scoring two big baskets – a knifing baseline drive and a corner triple – to nail down the win. Phoenix scored just two points over the final six minutes of the first half, the Pistons going on a 17-2 run to pull within eight points at halftime. Phoenix scored on only one of its final 10 first-half possessions after shooting 71 percent over the first 18 minutes, highlighted by ex-Piston Langston Galloway scoring 17 first-half points in nine minutes and hitting his first six shots, five of them 3-pointers. The Pistons got the holes in their defense plugged and tied the score at 70 with three minutes left in the third quarter, but they never really found something to hang their hat on offensively, scoring only eight points over the next nine minutes. After falling behind by eight again, they rallied within a point with 3:34 to play and took the lead on Blake Griffin’s post-up basket with 2:37 left. After Phoenix went up by four, the Pistons again came back and tied the game on Jerami Grant’s nice find for a Mason Plumlee dunk with 9.6 seconds to go. Josh Jackson returned after missing two games with an ankle injury but shot just 2 of 11. Derrick Rose was 1 of 7. Svi Mykhailiuk shot 2 of 9 as the Pistons finished at 41.1 percent overall and 32.4 from the 3-point arc. The Pistons now own an eight-game win streak vs. Phoenix, their longest active streak against any NBA opponent
ROOKIE ROUNDUP – With Killian Hayes sidelined for the foreseeable future with a right hip injury, the two first-rounders left standing for the Pistons are Saddiq Bey and Isaiah Stewart and both appear to have secured stable spots in Dwane Casey’s rotation. Bey came into the game with 19 3-pointers made through his first seven NBA games, trailing only Chicago’s Lauri Markkanen (20). The NBA record for a rookie through eight games is shared by Markkanen and Luca Doncic at 22. Bey, who went 2 of 5 from the 3-point arc and finished with 10 points and four rebounds, gets enough done off the dribble and in the post to avoid becoming scouted as just a 3-point shooter. On his first touch Friday, he took the ball on the right wing, dribbled in against Cameron Johnson, then used his body and good footwork to get the angle on Johnson and bank in an easy 6-footer. He grabbed a big offensive rebound and finished the possession with a triple to pull the Pistons within two points with less than five minutes to play and was rewarded by staying in the game at shooting guard when Blake Griffin returned after a brief rest. Stewart didn’t play in the second half, but had a solid nine-minute run in the first half when he grabbed four rebounds. He had consecutive possessions against savvy Dario Saric where he blocked Saric’s shot and the next time stayed down on Saric’s pump fake and then forced him into a turnover.
ANOTHER DEBUT – Frank Jackson became the 11th player to make his Pistons debut this season when he came on midway through the second quarter against Phoenix. Jackson, 22, was signed by the Pistons last month to a two-way contract after he was waived by Oklahoma City. A point guard who was the 31st pick of the 2017 after his freshman season at Duke, Jackson finished with three points, an assist and a steal in 10 minutes. He missed his first shot but hit his second, a 3-pointer, and made a terrific pass to Jahlil Okafor for a layup in his six minutes. Jackson was on the floor when the Pistons closed the first half on their 17-2 run. Jackson was the No. 14 recruit by consensus rankings in the high school class of 2016 with new teammate Josh Jackson ranked No. 1. Three of his Duke classmates were ranked higher than Jackson: Harry Giles at No. 2, Jayson Tatum tied for No. 3 with Lonzo Ball and Marques Bolden at No. 22. Jackson missed the 2017-18 season with injury and spent the past two seasons with New Orleans.