featured-image
(Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images)

McGruder, Stewart stand out as Pistons fall to Warriors

It’s called the Chase Center because a large commercial bank paid a reported $300 million over 20 years to slap its name on the new home of the Golden State Warriors. Not really because the Pistons, like so many other visitors, spend most games in a futile chase of the NBA juggernaut.

In the opener of a four-game road trip, the Pistons made that chase impossible when they gave away too many possessions in the first half on their way to a 28-point halftime deficit. Eight second-quarter turnovers and nine first-half Golden State offensive rebounds is a lot of extra possessions for an offense that doesn’t need the help.

“Once they started seeing shots go in from the 3-point line, they started to get going,” Isaiah Stewart said. “I felt like in the second half, we did a better job knowing who was coming off pin-downs and off screens and doing a better job defensively. If we would’ve done that in the first half, it would’ve been a different game.”

The Warriors flirted with the NBA’s best record for nearly three months – and then welcomed Klay Thompson back after a 2½ -year absence off of knee and Achilles injuries. Thompson led Golden State with 21 points in 22 minutes on Tuesday. The Warriors played one superb half of offense, scoring 66 in their dominant first half, and two equally impressive halves defensively.

It’s that No. 1-rated Golden State defense, overshadowed by Steph Curry and the offensive wizardry that was at the heart of the three NBA titles with the Curry-Thompson-Draymond Green nucleus, that goes unheralded but has the Warriors in the hunt for a fourth championship. Green missed Tuesday’s game with a back injury but Golden State forced the Pistons into hurried or contested shots consistently anyway. At one point midway through the third quarter, the Pistons were 2 of 18 from the 3-point arc. They finished shooting 35 percent overall and 27 percent from three.

“They’re a very physical team,” Dwane Casey said. “You don’t think of Golden State as a physical team, but they are. They screen hard, they cut hard, they push off.”

Stewart managed his fourth double-double of the season, finishing with 14 points and 11 rebounds while hitting 7 of 10 shots. Rodney McGruder, the veteran playing his first game with the Pistons since returning from Denver following the rescinded trade for Bol Bol, also hit 7 of 10 shots – 4 of 7 from three – to lead the Pistons with a season-high 19 points.

“Pro,” Casey said of McGruder. “He’s a pro. For him to come out and compete after being traded, stuck in Denver, not knowing what’s going to happen. I appreciate that. I know our organization appreciates his effort and how he approaches the game. This last part of the season is about figuring out the core – who is going to be here, who’s going to be a big part of our future. Rodney is setting the tone of being one of those vets you’ve got to have and tonight is a great example of it.”

“Being a pro’s pro, you have to have a stable foundation to lean on when things don’t go the way you want them to,” McGruder said of weathering the turbulence of the past 10 days. “My faith and what I depend on, that’s what allows me to be a pro.”

Bol reportedly failed his Pistons physical and it was reported on Tuesday that he would undergo surgery on his right foot and miss the next eight to 12 weeks. He was then reportedly traded to Boston as part of a three-way deal with Denver and San Antonio that helps Boston pare its luxury tax bill and sends shooter Bryn Forbes to the Nuggets to give Denver the minutes it had in mind for McGruder.

“It’s great to see him go out and ball,” Stewart said of getting the player he calls “my vet” back. “I’m sure it felt great for him. He’s an example of that true professional, coming in and just doing his job. That’s exactly what he did tonight.”

Stewart and McGruder aside, there weren’t a lot of bright spots for the Pistons on a night that saw them lose Killian Hayes to a right hip contusion after a second-quarter tumble. Casey said he’s unsure how the injury, which Hayes tested at halftime but couldn’t get to loosen up, will affect Hayes for the rest of the trip.

Take away Stewart and McGruder’s combined 14 buckets in 20 attempts and the rest of the team shot 16 of 65 or a shade under 25 percent. The Pistons outscored Golden State 48-36 in the second half and Casey at least liked the competitiveness and attention to detail on the defensive end that was missing in the first half.

“I was happy with our second half,” Casey said. “It was a great lesson against a championship-caliber team – how you have to come out ready to play offense and defense at that speed and with that physicality.”