Observations: Isaiah Stewart gets first start as Pistons’ depth at center wears thin

Detroit News

Rod Beard | The Detroit News

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Detroit — The Pistons were shorthanded on Thursday night against the Indiana Pacers, though they tried to piece things together to try to get consecutive wins for the first time this season.

Without Mason Plumlee, who missed the game because of elbow bursitis, the Pistons had to start rookie Isaiah Stewart at center, and get some patchwork minutes from Blake Griffin and Sekou Doumbouya.

They didn’t have enough, and fell to the Indiana Pacers, 111-95, on Thursday night at Little Caesars Arena. It’s the first night of back-to-back, and Plumlee appears to be day-to-day with the injury.

Here are some observations from the loss:

CENTER PROBLEMS: With Mason Plumlee ruled out before the game because of right elbow bursitis, the Pistons had a problem with their depth at their most crucial position against the Pacers, who have Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner in the frontcourt. It was made worse by the announcement that Jahlil Okafor, who will miss at least six to eight weeks because of knee surgery.

That left Isaiah Stewart, who made his first career start, but with Blake Griffin having to fill some of the minutes as the backup center. They also had to use Sekou Doumbouya in the center spot for a couple of minutes. There weren’t issues with foul trouble, which made balancing some of those minutes a little easier.

GRIFFIN START: In the opening minutes of the game, Griffin got off to a hot start, with 11 points in the first 14 minutes. He had a turnaround lay-in on the first possession and added three free throws after being fouled on a 3-pointer. He was involved in the offense as a facilitator early and had three rebounds and three assists in the first quarter. He was an active presence, taking charges and hustling on defense. He had a collision in the third quarter, which drew some blood from his head, hitting his head on the chin of Malcolm Brogdon, but he stayed in the game. He had another incident where he fell to the floor after some contact, and he was down for a moment, but he continued on.

SMITH’S DEBUT: In his first game with the Pistons, Dennis Smith Jr. had two points and two rebounds. He took some time to get acclimated to the speed of the game, it seemed, and he was 2-of-5 from the field. Because Frank Jackson and Saben Lee both were inactive, the Pistons only had two true point guards, in Delon Wright and Smith. The minutes split with 32 for Wright and the other 16 for Smith.

JACKSON DRIVE: Josh Jackson has shown that he’s capable of driving to the rim with power or hit from the outside. He took it to another level, against the Pacers’ Myles Turner, a good shot-blocker. In two instances, Jackson took his defender off the dribble, made the basket and got a foul call too. In both cases, Jackson missed the free throw to complete the three-point play, but he showed the fearlessness of going right at Turner, a 7-footer. Jackson finished with 18 points, his sixth straight game reaching that mark.

GRANT’S STREAK ENDS: Jerami Grant had converted multiple 3-pointers in 23 straight games, but that string ended Thursday, as he only went 1-of-6 from beyond the arc. He didn’t have a good shooting game, at just 4-of-17, and he didn’t get into a good rhythm with finding his way to the rim. His finished with nine points, the first time since the season opener that he scored in single digits.

Rod.Beard@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @detnewsRodBeard

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