DETROIT, MICHIGAN - JANUARY 28: Hamidou Diallo #6 of the Detroit Pistons dunks the ball over Bruno Fernando #20 of the Houston Rockets during the first half of an NBA game at Little Caesars Arena on January 28, 2023 in Detroit, Michigan. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Aaron J. Thornton/Getty Images)

Pistons give Houston too many second chances in loss to Rockets

Three quick observations from Saturday night’s 117-114 loss to the Houston Rockets at Little Caesars Arena

TOO MANY CHANCES – At least until May 16 – the date of the NBA draft lottery – that one’s going to sting. The Pistons lost to the only team in the NBA with a worse record, the 11-38 Houston Rockets, and in so doing they gave new meaning to give the other team too many second chances. If the Pistons came into Saturday’s game thinking the opportunity was ripe to win back to back games for the second time this season, Houston was no doubt thinking it had a shot to win for only the second time in its last 17 games. The Pistons looked like they were well on their way to following up Thursday’s rousing win at Brooklyn despite a 40-point burst from Kyrie Irving with a thumping of the Rockets when they spurted to a 16-4 lead. But the Rockets used offensive rebounding and Pistons turnovers to get back in the game, take a two-point halftime lead and expand it to 12 midway through the third quarter. The Pistons used a 20-4 run to regain the lead before the quarter ended and the game went back and forth in the fourth quarter when Houston, which was 3 of 20 from the 3-point line through three quarters, made five of its first six 3-pointers so surge back into the lead. Houston used a four-point possession – a basket from Kenyon Martin Jr., a missed free throw, and an offensive rebound and put back with 31 seconds left – to take a one-point lead. Alec Burks scored 21 for the Pistons, hitting 6 of 11 from the 3-point arc including 3 of 3 in the fourth quarter. His triple with 1:53 left put them ahead 111-109. But Houston went ahead on its four-point possession with 31 seconds to go. Jaden Ivey (16 points) had a chance to send the game to overtime with a clean look, but his triple from the top of the arc bounced off. Houston finished with 16 offensive rebounds for 21 second-chance points; the Pistons had just four such points.

HAMI’S HEATER – It wasn’t that long ago that Hamidou Diallo couldn’t find his way onto the floor. Diallo was out of the rotation for five games in mid-December, but since Christmas he’s arguably been the team’s most consistent player. In fact, Diallo’s on-off numbers since Christmas are eyebrow-raising: With him on the court, the Pistons are a plus 3.1 points per 100 possessions and with Diallo on the bench the Pistons are minus 13.4. Diallo has shot 70.6 percent from the field in January with averages of 12.5 points and 4.8 rebounds in 22 minutes a game. Dwane Casey has consistently praised Diallo’s hustle and the contagious energy he brings, which was put into action when Casey went to Diallo with six minutes left in the third quarter as the Pistons had seen a two-half halftime deficit swell to 12 points – subbing out leading scorer Bojan Bogdanovic much earlier than usual in the process. Less than a minute after entering the game, Diallo gave the Pistons a spark with a steal converted into a three-point play after converting a transition layup. The Pistons outscored Houston 22-7 over the last six minutes of the quarter after Diallo’s insertion to take a three-point lead into the fourth quarter. Diallo led the Pistons in plus/minus at plus 16 in his 19 minutes and finished with 15 points and five steals.

SEARCHING FOR SCORING – Dwane Casey’s new starting lineup, featuring Alec Burks, was designed to provide some stability for a unit that includes two rookies, Jaden Ivey and Jalen Duren. The game is robbing a second unit that’s ranked among the NBA’s most prolific of its scoring anchor. Casey expanded the rotation to 10 on Saturday with Kevin Knox joining the mix, but the second unit consisting of Knox, Isaiah Livers, Isaiah Stewart, Killian Hayes and Hamidou Diallo was short on proven shooters and consistent scorers. That group was on the floor late in the first quarter and early in the second when Houston forced its way back into the game. Knox drained his only two shots of the first half, both triples, and finished with six points and five rebounds in seven minutes when Casey tightened the rotation to nine in the second half. The Pistons bench unit that had risen from 28th in NBA scoring without Burks to first with him managed to cobble together 40 points without him led by Diallo’s 15. Hayes added eight points and seven rebounds. Casey tinkered with his substitution pattern in the second half to lessen the time the second unit was without a veteran scorer on the floor.