Three quick observations from Saturday night’s 114-90 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse
TURNOVER TALES – Troy Weaver cited the Cleveland Cavaliers and their success playing big men Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley together when he traded for James Wiseman and pondered how he’d fortify a frontcourt that already included Isaiah Stewart, Jalen Duren and Marvin Bagley III. The Pistons didn’t have Duren or Stewart – Duren missed his fourth straight game with ankle soreness and Stewart his third straight with a hip injury – nor did they have veteran scoring anchors Bojan Bogdanovic or Alec Burks plus Cade Cunningham for the fourth and final matchup with Cleveland on the season. Cleveland, meanwhile, had its full complement of players, including All-Star guards Donovan Mitchell and Darius Garland. The Pistons, who also lost Killian Hayes to a hand injury after playing sparingly in the third quarter, gave it a go and might have put themselves in position to pull off the upset if not for a season-high 24 turnovers, including 14 in a first half that ended with them trailing by nine points after leading or trailing narrowly until the last three minutes. Cleveland closed the half on a 17-8 run then used three more Pistons turnovers in the first four minutes of the second half to push the lead to 16. It went to 29 after a third quarter in which the Pistons were outscored 42-22. With the win against a depleted Pistons roster, Cleveland swept the four-game season series. The Pistons averaged just 89.3 points in those four losses.
BIG THINGS – The Pistons have gotten plenty of reasons for encouragement from James Wiseman since trading for him and Marvin Bagley III since his return from injury. Wiseman’s been a better rebounder and defender than the skeptics had him pegged in a short sample size of six games. Wiseman, averaging 11.8 points and 8.2 rebounds over his first five games didn’t get many scoring chances at Cleveland but finished with just three points but he recorded nine rebounds, two blocks, an assist and a steal in 24 minutes. Bagley had averaged 16.7 points and 13.0 rebounds in his first three games back from a Jan. 2 hand injury and he kept up his increased production at Cleveland, finishing with 20 points, 13 rebounds, three blocks, two assists and a steal. Bagley and Wiseman played together for the first six minutes of the first quarter and overlapped again for the first six-plus minutes of the third quarter. Casey is leery of playing his two big men together when he doesn’t have another in reserve with both Jalen Duren and Isaiah Stewart out, but Wiseman and Bagley combined to pick up just one first-half foul to make it possible to keep them together to start the second half.
SHORT BENCH – Dwane Casey used a nine-man rotation through three quarters and the four-man bench unit included two veterans who’ve been outside the playing mix for much of the season, Rodney McGruder and Cory Joseph, plus recently acquired R.J. Hampton, waived last week by Orlando. Hampton’s performance was uneven – he had four of the turnovers – but his flashes served as notice of what Troy Weaver and the Pistons saw as his upside and wished to explore over the final quarter of the season to see if the No. 24 pick in the 2020 draft can be part of the mix for next season and beyond. Hampton, who scored just two points on 1 of 7 shooting in his first three games with the Pistons, finished with 11 points on 3 of 8 shooting, hitting all four of his free throws, in 17 minutes. With the Pistons trailing by 29 points after three quarters, Casey brought in Jared Rhoden, playing on a two-way contract, and Eugene Omoruyi, signed on Friday to a 10-day contract. Midway through the quarter, Buddy Boeheim, like Rhoden on a two-way contract, made his NBA debut. Boeheim missed his first two 3-point shots but made his third for his first NBA points.