| Detroit Free Press
Top 10 NBA title contenders for 2021: Who they added, who they lost
Free Press’ Pistons editor Marlowe Alter looks at 10 NBA title contenders for the 2021 season, examining who they added and lost in the offseason.
Marlowe Alter, Detroit Free Press
The Detroit Pistons got off to a strong start against the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday. But in what has become a recurring theme early this season, they couldn’t close out the win.
Losing two of their key players — Blake Griffin and Killian Hayes — to injury midway through the game didn’t help, as the Pistons fell to the Warriors, 116-106, and are now 0-4 overall.
The Pistons had an 11-point lead toward the end of the second quarter, but Golden State used a late run to take a 106-93 lead late in the fourth. The Pistons cut it to five with 1:42 to play, but it wasn’t enough.
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Jerami Grant led the Pistons with 27 points, seven rebounds and three steals, and Josh Jackson had 17 points, six rebounds and three assists in his second straight start. Derrick Rose added 15 points (6-for-18 shooting) and seven assists off the bench.
Stephen Curry lit up the Pistons for 31 points on 9-for-17 shooting — though he had eight turnovers — and Andrew Wiggins scored 17 of his 27 in the fourth quarter for Golden State (2-2). The two combined to shoot 10-for-17 from 3-point range.
Here is what stood out from the game:
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Pistons lose Blake Griffin, Killian Hayes to injury
It’s too early to say if the Pistons have the injury bug, but they’ve had bad luck early in the season.
Blake Griffin took an elbow to the mouth from Warriors rookie James Wiseman in the second quarter, and play briefly halted so he could stop the bleeding. He subbed out at the 2:27 mark of the quarter, and entered concussion protocol afterward. He didn’t return in the second half.
The Pistons then lost Killian Hayes early in the third quarter, when he tweaked his ankle and immediately grabbed it in pain. It was later announced as a right ankle sprain, and he didn’t return.
It’s unclear if either Griffin or Hayes will miss extended time. Detroit has two days off before it returns to action against the Boston Celtics on Friday. If either of them do, it would force additional lineup changes.
Their injures come three days after the Pistons lost Jahlil Okafor to a foot injury. Okafor missed Monday and Tuesday’s games. Sekou Doumbouya tweaked his ankle Saturday, but it it didn’t cost him any games.
Jerami Grant settling into lead option
Tuesday marked Jerami Grant’s third consecutive game scoring more than 20 points. It’s the first time in his career he has reached the milestone, and illustrates how much his role has increased in Detroit.
Grant entered averaging 21.3 points, 5.7 rebounds, two assists and 1.7 blocks, shooting 48.9% overall, 38.1% from behind the arc and 85.7% at the line. He kept his streak going against the Warriors, finishing 9-for-21 and 3-for-9 on 3s.
He started slow, finishing the first half with seven points on 2 of 9 shooting. Grant found his rhythm in the third quarter, though, scoring 14 points on a perfect 5-for-5 from the floor with two blocks and two steals. No other player on the roster combines his ability to play both offense and defense, and he has lived up to — if not exceeded — expectations so far.
Josh Jackson keeps starting spot
With Griffin and Rose absent from Monday’s game against the Atlanta Hawks, coach Dwane Casey decided to promote Jackson to the starting lineup. Jackson was Detroit’s best offensive player, finishing the game with 27 points and seven rebounds on 11-for-19 shooting.
Griffin returned Tuesday, but Jackson stayed in the starting lineup. Casey moved Delon Wright to the bench. Jackson has brought energy to the first unit. He scored 12 of his 17 points in the first half.
Casey praised Jackson’s offensive output after Monday’s game. He has emerged as one of the Pistons’ most reliable scorers early in the season.
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