There are plenty of bodies of water in Florida. Surely they can afford to name one of them Saddiq Bay.
They’ll remember Saddiq Bey for his St. Patrick’s Day exploits whether or not he gets a landmark in his name, at any rate. Bey became the seventh player in Pistons history to crest the 50-point mark, dropping 51 and tying Joe Dumars’ franchise record along the way by sinking 10 3-point baskets in a 134-120 win Thursday at Orlando that came with Cade Cunningham and Jerami Grant out of the lineup.
It came after a five-game stretch in which Bey had cooled off, averaging 11.2 points and shooting just 32 percent from the 3-point line – and after a text message of admonition from his mother, Drewana, a pretty fair college basketball player at Charlotte.
“My mom was on me this morning. ‘Be more aggressive.’ She’s been doing that since I was a kid,” Bey, still soaked from a water dousing courtesy of his teammates to baptize him as a member of the 50-point club, grinned afterward. “I can’t wait to talk to her.”
Bey scored 21 in the first quarter, allowing the Pistons to get away with a sluggish start that saw Orlando take a 9-0 lead, and was at 30 by halftime when he closed it by draining a long two with defenders draped on him to save a shot-clock violation, then stealing the inbounds pass and draining a triple. He was at 36 points after three quarters – to top his previous career high of 34 – and then tacked on the last 15 after re-entering the game with 7:36 to play.
He got the last two when Orlando, swarming him on the sideline, sent Bey to the free-throw line with 8.2 seconds to play.
“Our bench stood up and was like, ‘Get the ball! Get the ball! I tried to get open and they tried to double team me. They fouled me. I went to the free-throw line. ‘All right, I’ve got to make at least one.’ I was in such a rhythm. I was just happy I got there. At least I had a chance of making one.”
Bey joins a list that’s as notable for who’s not on it – Isiah Thomas, Joe Dumars, Grant Hill and Chauncey Billups, for starters – as who is. Jerry Stackhouse (57), Kelly Tripucka (56), Dave Bing (54), George Yardley (52, 51), Rip Hamilton (51) and Blake Griffin (50) are the only players besides Bey in Pistons history with 50-point games.
“Fifty-one! That’s tough,” Isaiah Stewart said, shaking his head. “Fifty-one! Sheesh!”
“It was a great performance by Saddiq Bey,” Dwane Casey said. “He struggled shooting the ball (of late), but to see him bounce back the way he did – he was white hot. It was great to see him have a night like that. It’s something I think he’ll always remember as an NBA player.”
With Bey providing half of them, the Pistons knocked down a season-high 20 threes on 43 attempts. Bey hit 10 of 14 from three, 17 of 27 overall and 7 of 10 at the foul line. He also finished with nine rebounds, four assists, three steals and a single turnover in 39 minutes. Four other Pistons scored in double figures on a night they matched their season high in assists, 34. Only in the last few minutes did Bey look to score outside of the framework of the Pistons offense.
“It was not fabricated,” Casey said. “Nobody talked about it. It was natural. Guys just started pulling for him. The bench was jumping up and down. It was beautiful to see that type of camaraderie the guys had. Cade over there, sick, jumping up and down. It was great to see everybody pulling for Saddiq.”
“Saddiq is somebody who works hard,” said Stewart, who contributed 16 points and 10 boards. “He’s just a gamer. He’s a baller, a bucket. It was great just to be out on the court while he scores 50. They were trying their hardest not to let him score 50, but they gave it to him on the line.”
Marvin Bagley added 20 points and 11 rebounds, Cory Joseph 13 points and seven assists and Saben Lee 12 points and seven assists. The Pistons shot 50 percent and turned the ball over just nine times. They needed an unusual stew of contributions on a night they were missing four key players to start – Hamidou Diallo and Frank Jackson in addition to Cunningham and Grant – and then saw Killian Hayes sidelined with a head contusion after a five-assist first quarter.
But mostly they needed Saddiq Bey to have a night that puts him on a most exclusive list in franchise history.
“I came in saying I’ve got to lock in, try to finish this season out strong,” Bey said. “I kind of had a reality check after the loss to Miami, so I came to the hotel in Orlando saying I’ve got to refocus and finish out this road trip strong. That was my mentality coming in. It’s a blessing for me to be able to get that. I haven’t had that much water thrown on me in my life. I’m freezing right now. But it was a great atmosphere.”