Three quick observations from Friday afternoon’s 107-96 loss to the LA Clippers at Staples Center
A BAD MIX – It didn’t look like a great matchup for the Pistons, ranked 28th in offense, against the NBA’s No. 2 defense. And that’s the way it played out, too. There have been a lot of games this season where the Pistons created tons of desirable shots – the statistics on “wide-open” and “open” shots as defined by the NBA back them up on that – but this wasn’t necessarily one of them. The Pistons opened 4 of 20 from the floor and only four of those were 3-point shots, well below their typical rate of 40 percent of attempts coming from the arc, and most of the 2-point shots were contested jump shots or shots at the rim. The Pistons eventually got their fair share of 3-point attempts, but their offense never came close to finding its comfort zone until a loosely played fourth quarter as the season’s longest road trip opened with its second loss and three games to go. They scored 18 points in the first quarter and 22 in the second and the Clippers spurted at the end of the half to go ahead by 24 points. The 40-point first half was just one better than their season-low of 39 vs. Milwaukee on Nov. 4. Jerami Grant finished with 20 points and a season-high 10 rebounds for the Pistons. Isaiah Stewart returned from his two-game suspension and finished with four points and 12 rebounds in 27 minutes.
POWER OUTAGE – The three players who take the most shots for the Pistons – a combined 43.5 per game – are Jerami Grant, Cade Cunningham and Saddiq Bey. When they’re all winning their matchups and finding good shots, the Pistons have stretches where the offensive functions at a high level. When only one of the three scores efficiently, it’s a slog. And when all three have the kinds of performances they turned in in the holiday matinee at Staples Center, well, the Pistons don’t have many other ways to turn – especially without Kelly Olynyk. When the Pistons stumbled to a 40-point first half, the three mainstays of their offense combined to shoot 6 of 27. Saddiq Bey was 4 of 11 – three layups and one triple in five tries. Grant opened 0 of 7 before hitting his first shot – a long, contested 2-point shot with the shot clock about to expire, the type of shot that he’s often forced to take when the ball is swung to him with the clock about to expire. Grant, Bey and Cunningham finished 12 of 41. Cunningham started 1 of 10 before a steal led to a breakaway dunk and finished with 10 points, six rebounds, six assists and three steals. With Olynyk and his 9.8 shots a game unavailable for at least another month as he recovers from a knee injury, Frank Jackson is next in line in shots per game at 8.1 and in scoring at 9.3 per game. Jackson scored 10 points, one of five Pistons in double figures.
GETTING CLOSER – Killian Hayes missed his third straight game with the left thumb injury that’s bothered him throughout November, but could be ready to go on Sunday against the Lakers. Dwane Casey said before the game that Hayes will be fitted with a splint for the thumb to limit the impact when it is inevitably bumped and the injury is re-aggravated, which has happened on several occasions. “Once he gets that,” Casey said, “he’ll be ready to roll.” With Hayes out and Cade Cunningham picking up two fouls in the first five-plus minutes – the second one Casey will call a “teaching moment” as Cunningham reached to attempt a steal on Eric Bledsoe 40 feet from the basket – Saben Lee got some extended playing time for the second straight game. Coming off a strong outing at Milwaukee, Lee played 20 minutes and finished with six points, three rebounds and two assists . Cory Joseph played just seven minutes despite starting in Wednesday’s game at Milwaukee; he finished with 10 points, four assists and one turnover in 25 minutes and hit 2 of 2 from the 3-point arc.