Observations: Pistons’ inexperience proves costly on critical Celtics’ possession

Detroit News

Rod Beard
 
| The Detroit News

Detroit — The Pistons had a chance in the final seconds to pull off a second straight upset against the Boston Celtics, but fell short, 122-120, after the Celtics Jayson Tatum hit the go-ahead shot with 2.9 seconds left on Sunday afternoon at Little Caesars Arena.

It’s a disappointing loss, but the Pistons showed again that with their young core, they have some positives that they can lean on. They couldn’t get the final stop on Boston’s final possession, which ended up being their undoing.

Here are some takeaways from Sunday’s loss:

Grant’s start: Jerami Grant got off to a white-hot start on the offensive end, going 5-of-5 from the field, including making both of his 3-point attempts in the first quarter, finishing with 12 of his 22 points. He showed the complete array of his arsenal, with drives from the 3-point line into the paint and finishing at the rim and then hitting from beyond the arc. He’s become the Pistons’ best offensive player with his skill set, but when the Pistons seem to struggle offensively, it’s mainly when Grant is on the bench or the offense goes away from him. Sunday marked Grant’s fifth straight game of 20-plus points.

Jackson down: Josh Jackson, who has been one of the pleasant surprises this season, left in the third quarter after landing awkwardly on his right ankle on a drive to the rim. He finished the play with a basket, and he was fouled. He stayed on the court for a minute, grasping at his ankle while he was being examined by team medical staff. He made the free throw and went directly to the locker room to be further examined. Jackson didn’t return in the second half and coach Dwane Casey said he didn’t have any updates on Jackson’s condition, though he had just seen him in the locker room. Without Jackson, the Pistons relied on Svi Mykhailiuk (15 second-half points) for most of those minutes, but they missed Jackson’s defensive presence in guarding the Celtics’ Jayson Tatum (24 points) and Jaylen Brown (31 points).

Three centers: For the first time this season, Casey used all three centers, finding playing time for Mason Plumlee (13 points, eight rebounds), Isaiah Stewart (two points, three rebounds) and Jahlil Okafor (six points, two rebounds) in the first half. It’s an expansion of the rotation to 11 players (12, after Jackson’s injury) and could be due partly to the back-to-back on Monday and the seeing how much he can get from the center trio. Plumlee played 25 minutes, Stewart 15 and Okafor eight, so it seems that some of Stewart’s minutes were taken by Okafor. How that rotation plays out in the coming games will be something to watch.

Offensive numbers: The Pistons were shooting over 50% in the first half and finished at 48%, along with 44% (16-of-36) on 3-pointers. Blake Griffin and Mkyhailiuk had three 3-pointers each and Grant, Jackson, Saddiq Bey and Sekou Doumbouya had two apiece. It’s been an up-and-down proposition from beyond the arc this season, with the Pistons entering the game at 32%. Casey lauded the offensive production, with only 10 turnovers, and the fact that they could score 120 points, but the defensive issues reared their heads again, especially on the final possession, when they couldn’t get a stop when they needed it.

Point guard splits: The minutes for Killian Hayes and Derrick Rose were split evenly, with Hayes getting five points and four assists (and two turnovers) and Rose 13 points and eight assists (and four turnovers). Of note, Rose finished the game down the stretch again, as Casey was looking to get a win with Rose as an offensive threat. Hayes held his own defensively, against some tough wings in the Celtics’ Tatum, Brown and Marcus Smart, but Casey is opting to use Rose’s experience at the end of games more, at least for now.

Rod.Beard@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @detnewsRodBeard

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