Three quick observations from Thursday night’s 118-88 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies at FedEx Forum
INSTANT REPLAY – Different details and characters, same plot line. After opening a three-game road trip with an energizing win at reigning NBA champion Milwaukee, the Pistons closed with two deflating losses in which the outcome became quickly apparent. The Pistons fell 26 points down to Charlotte early in Wednesday’s second quarter and surrendered a 17-0 run to Memphis that started three minutes into Thursday’s game with the Pistons going scoreless on 10 consecutive possessions. Pistons starters managed just eight first-quarter points and made just 4 of their first 19 combined shots. Trailing by 16 at halftime, the Pistons endured another drought to open the second half when they scored on one of 11 possessions as Memphis stretched its lead to 28. It was a rough night all around for Pistons starters, who combined to score only 38 points and shot a combined 28.6 percent. The Pistons shot just 34.3 percent overall and 22.7 percent from the 3-point arc. Memphis’ win was its seventh straight.
THEN THERE WAS ONE – A week ago the Pistons had eight players out due to health and safety protocols and eight players signed to 10-day emergency contracts to fill out their roster. When Isaiah Stewart returned at Memphis after missing the past five games, only Cory Joseph remained sidelined and he’s out of protocols and listed as reconditioning – likely meaning he’ll be available when the Pistons host Orlando on Saturday. Stewart was put back in his customary spot in the starting lineup at Memphis and played 20 minutes, finishing with six points, eight rebounds and two blocked shots. One night after using Micah Potter, one of the two remaining Pistons on 10-day contracts, as primary backup to Trey Lyles at center for matchup purposes, Luka Garza came off the bench in the first quarter and Lyles moved to power forward after initially replacing Stewart. Garza finished with eight points, four rebounds and three assists in 18 minutes.
1-2 PUNCH – With Jerami Grant sidelined, the two bellwethers of Pistons scoring have to be Saddiq Bey and Cade Cunningham. Bey, who’s been on a tear since Grant was injured in mid-December, seemed to hit the wall in Memphis – perhaps a byproduct of the extreme workload he had to shoulder when the Pistons were hit by Omicron wave that sidelined eight players. Bey, playing his third game in four nights, went scoreless while taking just two shots in the first half and didn’t dent the scoresheet until less than four minutes remained when he knocked down a triple on his sixth shot of the game. He finished 1 of 9. Bey had averaged 39 minutes – plus 23.6 points and 8.0 rebounds – over his last 10 games. Cunningham, who missed four games while in health and safety protocols before returning on Monday at Milwaukee, also started slowly at Memphis, making 1 of 7 shots by the midway point of the second quarter. He scored 10 points from then until halftime but went scoreless in the second half, missing all six of his shots.