Observations: Mounting injuries compound Pistons’ growing pains

Detroit News

Rod Beard
 
| The Detroit News

The Pistons continued a grueling stretch with the second game of a back-to-back, following Sunday’s loss to the Boston Celtics. Monday’s matchup against the Milwaukee Bucks.

It’s also the middle game of a set of three games in four nights, with the rematch coming on Wednesday night in Milwaukee.

The Pistons (1-6) lost another starter to injury and had to deal with a big game from Giannis Antetokounmpo, but fell short in a 125-115 loss to the Bucks.

Here are some quick takeaways from the loss:

►Grant fouls: The Pistons opened the game with Jerami Grant guarding Giannis Antetokounmpo. That plan didn’t work out so well. Grant picked up a foul on the first possession and got his second at the 10:21 mark of the first quarter, which was … suboptimal. Grant sat for the rest of the first quarter, with only three points, but returned in the second quarter and finished with 11 points in the first half. One of the selling points on getting Grant in the offseason was that he is a rangy defender who can guard bigger players, but as most have figured out in the past couple of years, Antetokounmpo is one of the most difficult players to guard in the league. Grant will have his days defensively where he’s a good matchup, but Giannis continues to be a problem.

►Sekou minutes: When Grant had to go to the bench with foul trouble, Sekou Doumbouya, who was playing backup power forward because Blake Griffin was out, got into the game, less than two minutes in. It was almost like starters’ minutes for Doumbouya, who has struggled to find consistent big minutes in his reserve role. Doumbouya hit a 3-pointer less than a minute into his time, and he was aggressive going to the rim and drawing fouls. He also played some good defense on Antetokounmpo — about as good as can be expected — in his time. He needs to string more stretches of minutes like that together to extend his playing time on the court, but it was a positive step to have it against the two-time defending league MVP.

►Killian injury: Rookie Killian Hayes sustained a non-contact injury in the third quarter and grabbed at his thigh and hip area when he went down to the floor. The Pistons deemed it a hip injury and ruled him out for the rest of the game. During the first half, Hayes had been having an improved game, though he’s had trouble with his shot this season, shooting 26% from the field and 24% on 3-pointers in the first six games. He had a better start Monday night, going 3-of-7 in the first half, with a 3-pointer and two floaters. Hayes had seemed to be having the most trouble getting his floater to fall, just a smidge off on his touch. That could be big for Hayes’ confidence to see just a couple of those shots falling.

►Ellington time: Wayne Ellington got the surprise start, after Josh Jackson was ruled out because of a sprained right ankle. Although there were other choices to put in the starting lineup, coach Dwane Casey opted to go with Ellington, likely to keep the reserve group mostly intact but moving Saddiq Bey to the starting group as well. Ellington was good in the role, hitting a 3-pointer and a drive in the first quarter and finishing the second quarter with two more 3-pointers, for 11 first-half points. Casey has commented on Ellington’s professionalism and ability to be ready at a moment’s notice. He answered the bell remarkably in this game, which also allowed them to rest Delon Wright in the first half.

►Wright in action: Delon Wright didn’t play in the first half, likely a planned rest for him, but with the injury to Hayes, Wright was pressed into duty in the third quarter. Casey has shuffled the deck on the rotation, giving some first-half minutes to Rodney McGruder. It’s part of the roster flexibility they have that some players will play from one game to the next and then get a night off and others will sit for a while, then be put back into games for spot minutes. The Pistons’ depth will allow for much more of that.

Rod.Beard@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @detnewsRodBeard

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