Three quick observations from Tuesday night’s 102-86 loss to the Golden State Warriors at Chase Center:
TOUGH GOING – If Phoenix was the frying pan, Golden State was the fire. One game after playing the team with the NBA’s best record, Phoenix, the Pistons opened a four-game Western road swing against the team with the NBA’s second-best record, Golden State. With Klay Thompson back in the fold and Steph Curry the mid-season MVP favorite, the Warriors hit 6 of 9 from the 3-point line in the first quarter to soften up the Pistons defensively and then their offense unraveled with eight second-quarter turnovers. When the dust settled on halftime, the Pistons trailed by 28 points. Golden State expanded it to 34 early in the third quarter before the Pistons started to chip away. The Pistons came into the game 5-4 in January with a striking contrast in their defensive yields in wins vs. losses. In the five wins, the Pistons held opponents to just 103.4 points per game on 40 percent shooting; in the four losses, Pistons opponents averaged a whopping 131.5 points and made 55 percent of their shots. Golden State didn’t approach the high end but didn’t need to after rolling to 66 first-half points, which put it on pace for 132. Killian Hayes played nine first-half minutes, leaving the game about midway through the second quarter. Hayes hit the floor hard under the basket midway through the second quarter, left the game soon after and was ruled out with a right hip contusion.
McGRUDER RETURNS – With last week’s trade of Bol Bol rescinded, Rodney McGruder was back in uniform for the first time since returning to the Pistons. And McGruder was back on the second unit, too, taking the spot that Cassius Stanley had occupied. Stanley returned to the Motor City Cruise and scored 30 points on Tuesday night as the Cruise scored a home win over the College Park Skyhawks. McGruder wound up leading the Pistons, scoring a season-high 19 points while hitting 7 of 10 shots and 4 of 7 from the 3-point arc. It was reported on Tuesday that Bol had elected to undergo surgery on his right foot that is expected to sideline him for eight to 12 weeks. Bol, 22, missed most of his only college season at Oregon in 2018-19 because of an injury to his left foot. The injury was one reason why Bol, considered a potential top-five pick to start that season, fell to 44th. The trade was rescinded when Bol reportedly failed his physical. Later Tuesday, Bol was reportedly included in a three-way trade that sent him to Boston along with P.J. Dozier. Bryn Forbes went to Denver from San Antonio in the deal and Juancho Hernangomez went from Boston to San Antonio with the Spurs also picking up a second-round pick from Denver.
A GOOD PROBLEM – As a coach who only recently had to cobble together a team that was down to three players on standard contracts and eight others plucked from the G League on emergency 10-day deals, Dwane Casey won’t complain about having to find minutes for guys who deserve them. But with Kelly Olynyk’s return imminent after a two-month absence and Trey Lyles providing consistent and efficient scoring punch off the bench while playing out of position at center, Casey will get creative if need be in finding minutes for Lyles. He talked on Tuesday about his ideas on using Lyles and Olynyk together and create matchup advantages. Lyles finished with 13 points and five rebounds against Golden State, hitting 9 of 12 free throws. Lyles’ on/off numbers for the year show the impact he has on the Pistons offensively. With Lyles on the floor, the Pistons have an offensive rating of 106.3; when he sits, it drops to 97.3. Over his last 10 games coming into Tuesday, Lyles had averaged 15.4 points and 6.8 rebounds on 50 percent shooting.