Three quick observations from Sunday night’s 144-109 loss to the San Antonio Spurs at AT&T Center
THINNED OUT – The Pistons found out what their breaking point was for losing players and making lineups up on the fly. With their list of unavailable players growing to 11 – eight of them due to NBA health and safety protocols related to COVID-19 – with the additions of Trey Lyles, Cory Joseph and Josh Jackson on Sunday, the Pistons played San Antonio tough for a quarter before the roof caved. The Spurs outscored them 40-24 during a second quarter in which the Pistons shot 6 of 24 and at one point leading by 30 points. The Spurs had 119 points after three quarters and led by 39. The Pistons pushed Miami to the buzzer in their previous game when they were without four preferred starters among seven total absences. But Joseph and Lyles combined for 49 points and gave the Pistons two players with plenty of NBA experience. On Sunday – with Dwane Casey missing due to personal reasons again and three other assist coaches also sidelined by COVID-19 protocols along with one of the three NBA referees assigned to the game – they needed four players signed to 10-day contracts over the past few days to flesh out the roster. Isaiah Stewart, Killian Hayes, Cade Cunningham, Rodney McGruder and Saben Lee were the other Pistons missing due to health and safety protocols while Jerami Grant and Kelly Olynyk remain out with injuries. Hamidou Diallo led the Pistons with 28 points.
THE NEW GUYS – All four of the players signed to emergency 10-day contracts recently allowed by the NBA to restock COVID-depleted rosters played before the first quarter ended. The four – Derrick Walton Jr., Cheick Diallo, Cassius Stanley and Deividas Sirvydis – have spent the 2021-22 season with the Motor City Cruise of the G League.
Walton drew the start as the only player on the roster who qualifies as a point guard. Walton, undrafted out of Michigan in 2017, had 42 games of NBA experience on his resume with Miami, the Los Angeles Clippers and the Detroit, for which he played three games in 2019-20. Walton, a Detroit native, went scoreless in 31 minutes, missing five shots, but registered six assists. Cheick Diallo, who made his Pistons debut in Thursday’s game at Miami, was called on early and often as starting center Luka Garza, who scored a season-high 20 points in 20 minutes, dodged foul trouble for much of the game and fouled out early in the fourth quarter. Diallo also fouled out, finishing with nine points and nine rebounds in 19 minutes. Cassius Stanley, the 54th pick of the 2020 draft after one season at Duke, played 24 games for Indiana as a rookie. He came to training camp with the Pistons and signed with the Cruise. He finished with nine points, three rebounds and two assists in 20 minutes. Sirvydis was the 38th pick of the 2019 draft by the Pistons. He spent the 2019-20 season playing in Europe and came to the Pistons last season but was waived before training camp this season. He scored three points on 1 of 8 shooting.
STILL STANDING – Saddiq Bey started his 78th consecutive game at San Antonio, the NBA’s fifth-longest active streak and all the more amazing given that Bey is the only one of the Pistons preferred starters who was in uniform. After a sometimes-rocky first third of the season, Bey has turned it around over the past few weeks. Before going for 23 points and eight rebounds on Sunday, Bey had averaged 23.0 points, 7.0 rebounds and 3.6 assists on 38 percent 3-point shooting and 47 percent overall shooting over his previous five games. That compares to 11.9 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.3 assists on 30 and 35 percent splits over his first 26 games. Bey has continued to show more diversity in his scoring than he exhibited as a rookie, when two-thirds of his shots were 3-point attempts. Bey didn’t have a great night from the field, hitting 5 of 16 shots and 1 of 6 from three, but found a way to score by getting to the foul line and converting 12 of 14.