Observations: Good play from Grant, Ellington not enough as Pistons run out of gas against Hawks

Detroit News

Rod Beard
 
| The Detroit News

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The Pistons finished their three-game road trip to Miami and Atlanta with two straight disappointing losses. In each game, they let double-digit leads slip away, notably a 17-point margin in the final seven minutes of regulation in a 123-115 loss to the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday night.

They couldn’t take advantage of a career-high 32 points from Jerami Grant, who scored 20-plus points for the 13th consecutive game. Grant scored all nine of their points in overtime and the Pistons simply ran out of gas and didn’t have an answer for the Hawks’ trio of Trae Young (38 points and 10 assists), John Collins (31 points and 11 rebounds) and Clint Capela (27 points, 26 rebounds and five blocks).

The Pistons (3-11) have a three-game homestand, with a matchup against the Houston Rockets on Friday and a pair of games against the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday and Monday.

Here are some takeaways from the Pistons’ win:

ELLINGTON OPTION: Wayne Ellington continues to dazzle in the starting lineup as a scoring option. He didn’t play much early in the season, but he’s made up for lost time as an easy-fix veteran for coach Dwane Casey. He’s been a find with his excellent outside shooting, but he’s also been a “solid defender” as Casey noted in Wednesday’s pregame. That combination makes him a better fit for the starting group than some of the younger players. Ellington got going with a couple of 3-pointers early in the third quarter and then added another to keep the lead at double digits. He finished the game with 16 points, including four 3-pointers.

HAWKS BOARDS: The Pistons didn’t have an answer for the Hawks’ tandem of Clint Capela and John Collins, who were a menace on the boards on both ends of the court. The Hawks had a 63-42 rebounding margin, with a 23-7 advantage on the offensive end. Capela had 14 points and 14 rebounds in his first 13 minutes and the Pistons looked to be overmatched, throughout the game, failing to stop the Hawks from getting additional chances on offensive rebounds. Capela’s 26 rebounds were the most in the NBA this season and the most for a Hawks players since Dikembe Mutombo in 2001. The Hawks were a bit shorthanded on their bench, but with Capela and Collins, they didn’t need much more help. “This is what I do. I just did it multiple times tonight,” Capela said.

STEWART FOUL TROUBLE: Amid the rebounding issues for the Pistons, they needed Stewart to provide some kind of presence in the post, but because of his foul trouble — three in his first stint in the first half — he had to sit and didn’t come back until the second half. That’s been part of his identity in the first part of the season, with plenty of energy in getting on the offensive boards, but when it’s proving difficult to stay out of foul trouble. That limits his playing time and the opportunities he could get as the backup center. Stewart played nine minutes in the second half and finished with a pedestrian four points and four rebounds, and Jahlil Okafor played the other nine minutes, with just two points.

ROSE THE SPARK: Derrick Rose was dependable and efficient off the bench again, with scoring spurts when the Pistons needed them. He’s been very solid off the bench since returning from his knee injury; in the last two games, he’s averaging 22 points and four assists in 24 minutes, going 14-of-23 from the field. Rose continued Wednesday, going 7-of-11 through the first three quarters, slicing through the Hawks’ defense and was able to get into the paint and hit an array of floaters and short jumpers. Rose had 14 points but didn’t come through in crunch time.

MIXING AND MATCHING: It looks as if Casey has some decisions to make at the back of the rotation, but the starting lineup appears to be fairly solidified. Casey had questioned whether he wanted to make changes in the starting lineup because of the slow starts they had been having, but with Ellington’s emergence and building a bit more chemistry, things are starting toe work out a little better. There are some adjustments to make in terms of when the substitutions are made and which players come in, but the second unit seems to be set as well, with Okafor getting minutes when Stewart is in four trouble and then Casey choosing either Saddiq Bey or Sekou Doumbouya, who each played sparingly on Monday. The young players aren’t getting a lot of playing time at the ends of games — Bey played eight minutes and Doumbouya five.

Rod.Beard@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @detnewsRodBeard

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