Observations: Rusty Pistons show promise in exhibition defeat

Detroit News

Rod Beard
| The Detroit News

Detroit — It’s the preseason, so the score didn’t really matter. Heck, in the midst of a pandemic, the score really didn’t matter at all.

That there’s basketball to watch at all — not in a bubble — could be the headline by itself.

The Pistons played their first game in exactly nine months and although there weren’t any spectators in attendance at Little Caesars Arena on Friday night, there was basketball.

BOX SCORE: Knicks 90, Pistons 84

The new-look Pistons, buoyed by a new roster that had just four players back from last season’s roster, got off to a sloppy start with turnovers, but had a decent first showing after a long layoff.

The New York Knicks took advantage and rolled to a 90-84 victory in the preseason opener on Friday night, in the first competitive game for either team since March.

Svi Mykhailiuk and rookie Saadiq Bey had 14 points each, Derrick Rose added 10 and Blake Griffin nine points, seven rebounds and five assists for the Pistons.

“The young group came in and played fantastic and competed,” coach Dwane Casey said. “Saddiq Bey did a heck of a job, not just in scoring, but defensively with his compete level. I was really proud to see that.”

All eyes were on Killian Hayes, who had an uneven debut, with five points, four rebounds, three assists and seven turnovers in 21 minutes.

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“Killian just has to relax and play. He’s a little uptight,” Casey said. “That’ll come. It’s a typical first exhibition game for him.”

Here are some observations of the Pistons’ preseason opener against the New York Knicks:

Blake’s back: He’s not completely the Blake Griffin from the 2018-19 season that was playing at an All-NBA level, but he flashed a lot of those same skills during an encouraging first half. It was Griffin’s first game since Dec. 28, after he had knee issues that sidelined him after 18 games last year and caused him to miss the remainder of the season. After rehabbing, he looks like he has some of the spring back in his step and though he’s not jumping out of the gym and dunking like he did in his heyday, Griffin does have his 3-point shooting back. Griffin showed that he can still facilitate on the perimeter and get others involved. In the first half, Griffin had six points, five rebounds and five assists. Another encouraging sign was that he was diving all over the court for loose balls and trying to create additional opportunities — a clear indication that he was feeling better

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“He had an impact on the game and he’s not going to go 3-for-11 and 2-for-7 from 3,” Casey said. “Once he got in and got his rhythm, he played well and I’m not worried about him. I’m not worried about he and Plumlee and Jerami going 1-of-11.

“That’s not going to happen a lot. The most important thing for that entire group is rebounding and making sure we take care of the ball.”

Killian Time: Hayes, the No. 7 overall pick, made his Pistons debut, joining the starting lineup. He had some struggles early, going 2-of-7 from the field and missing his first three 3-point attempts. He also had six turnovers in the first two-plus quarters, a combination of getting used to game speed and a couple of traveling calls.

“My thing is let’s throw him in the deep end. I don’t care how many mistakes you make — as long as you don’t make the same one twice,” Casey said in his pregame remarks.

He made some good plays offensively, with drives to the left and snap two-hand passes to the weak side to get the 3-point shooters open looks. It worked out well, but he’ll work more on those adjustments. He also had a couple of drives and finished one with a nice floater in the lane. He’s 19 years old and it showed in some of his decisions, but for an opener, there were some positives to take away.

 “I’m not really looking for excuses. I’ve been working on for a long time. I know what I can do and what I can do better,” Hayes said. “The mistakes, I’m gonna watch tape, go through it and not make the same mistake on Sunday and play better.”

  Sloppy play: The Pistons had 18 turnovers through the first three quarters and finished the game with 22, which is a testament to coach Dwane Casey’s comments that they were careless with the ball all through training camp. Some of that falls on Hayes, but there were plenty more culprits, with the ball being kicked around and fumbled. Much of that is going to come with developing more chemistry as time goes on.

“The turnover part was (expected). Any time you turn it over as much as we did in practice, it did transfer over into tonight,” Casey said. “I liked our effort; we’ve just got to play smarter and take care of the ball.”

► No Crowd: There hasn’t been a game at Little Caesars Arena in more than nine months and there was an eeriness to playing with no fans in attendance. From the pre-recorded national anthem to the piped-in fan noise, it was a surreal experience. The Pistons Dancers were there and a DJ played live music throughout, but there was something weird about not having people to see on the sidelines and throughout the game. The atmosphere was a little off, but that appears to be the new normal.

From 3: The Pistons didn’t shoot well from beyond the arc, going just 8-of-33 through three-plus quarters. They lost much of their long-distance shooting with the roster attrition, but Svi Mykhailiuk and Saddiq Bey each had two makes during the first half. That may be one of their few weaknesses, but in expanding the benches — they played 12 players in the first half — some of that will come with more familiarity.


Twitter: @detnewsRodBeard

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