Detroit Pistons embrace youth, play well despite 114-110 loss to East-leading 76ers

Detroit Free Press

Omari Sankofa II
| Detroit Free Press

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Without Blake Griffin and Derrick Rose, the Detroit Pistons played one of their strongest games of the season Saturday night at Little Caesars Arena.

It ended, once again, with a down-to-the-wire loss, a 114-110 defeat to the Philadelphia 76ers, but the Pistons saw strong performances from several young players with the two former All-Stars in street clothes. 

Wayne Ellington scored a team-high 17 points and continued his hot streak by hitting four of his six 3-point attempts. Svi Mykhailiuk scored 15 points, and Sekou Doumbouya finished with 13. The Pistons have lost four in a row, and own the NBA’s worst record at 3-13.

Joel Embiid had 33 points and 14 rebounds for the Sixers, who at 12-5 are in first place in the Eastern Conference.

The Pistons have a seven-game losing streak to Philadelphia, their last win coming Oct. 23, 2018. They match up again Monday night in Detroit.

Rotation shifts

On the second night of a back-to-back, and Griffin and Rose sitting, several young playersreceived more minutes. Saddiq Bey started for the first time since Jan. 4. He has been slumping, shooting 1-for-9 in his past four games, but finished with 10 points on 4-for-9 shooting and 2-for-5 from 3 vs. the Sixers. 

After only appearing for the final play of Friday’s loss against the Houston Rockets, Mykhailiuk entered Saturday’s game toward the end of the first quarter. He has been in a shooting slump for much of the season but looked more like his 2019-20 self from outside, and did a good job of getting to the rim and drawing fouls. Mykhailiuk played 18 minutes — his highest total since Jan. 4. 

Doumbouya started the second quarter and had one of his strongest outings of the season, finishing with 13 points on 4-for-10 shooting, four rebounds and one steal. He was active without the ball in his hands, and his teammates did a good job rewarding his well-timed cuts. Detroit’s offense has a tendency to become stagnant, so his activity stood out. 

Two-way guard Saben Lee also received extended playing time, as the only active point guard on the roster besides starter Delon Wright. It was the fourth game of Lee’s career, and also his best. His numbers don’t stand out (two points, four assists and a steal in 12 minutes), but he looked comfortable as a playmaker. He entered the night with only one career assist, so tallying four without turning the ball over was a step forward for him. He also was solid defensively.

READ MORE: Pistons rookie Saben Lee is a lion on the court: He’ll ‘dunk on anybody’

Strong start sets up competitive game

Unlike Friday, the Pistons didn’t have to dig themselves out of a hole against the Sixers. Detroit turned the ball over nine times and shot 7-for-21 in the first period against the Rockets. Saturday’s first quarter was significantly better, as they shot 11-for-25, 6-for-10 from 3 and tallied eight assists opposite of three turnovers. It helped them enter the second quarter with a 31-28 lead, and remain competitive throughout the entire game. 

Seesaw games have been an issue for Detroit this past week. In their previous three games, they led the Miami Heat by 19 points in the first quarter but fell behind and lost, led the Hawks by 17 points in the fourth quarter but lost in overtime, and trailed the Rockets by 20. Saturday was one of their most even performances of the season, as neither team led by more than 11. The game had eight lead changes and 14 ties.

Grant’s 20-point streak comes to an end

Jerami Grant entered the season with high expectations, but few would’ve guessed he would emerge as one of the NBA’s best and most consistent scorers. He came into Saturday’s game with an league-high 14-consecutive games scoring at least 20 points. He overcame an off night Friday to reach the threshold, scoring 21 points despite going 4-for-15 from the floor.

That streak ended Saturday, as he finished with 11 points on 3-for-19 shooting. He grabbed nine rebounds, dished three assists and brought his usual energy on defense. He hit a deep 3-pointer with 28.5 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter to cut the deficit to 110-108, though the Sixers went 4-for-4 at the foul line to close out the Pistons. 

Contact Omari Sankofa II at Follow him on Twitter @omarisankofa. Read more on the Detroit Pistons and sign up for our Pistons newsletter.

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