Observations: How Pistons are getting the upper hand on NBA’s elite

Detroit News

Rod Beard
| The Detroit News

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Chalk up another win over a top team.

The Pistons did it again, surprising the Boston Celtics, with their second win in three head-to-head meetings this season. This time, it was a 108-102 road win on Friday night, with Saddiq Bey scoring a career-high 30 points.

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It’s the second win of the season over the Celtics in three meetings.

Here are some takeaways from the victory at TD Garden:

►Bey watch: Rookie Saddiq Bey had his best game of the season, with a career-high 30 points, with some absolute stellar shooting. He started 9-of-11, making all seven of his 3-pointers, on the way to 27 points and 11 rebounds midway through the fourth quarter. Not only was it a career high as a pro, but he only had one game at Villanova with more points: 33 points against Georgetown, during his sophomore season. Bey had an array of other baskets, including post-ups and dunks, to add to his highlight reel. It was a solid all-around performance, including some good defense for the rookie.

►Foul trouble: Because of the injuries to Mason Plumlee (elbow bursitis), Jahlil Okafor (knee surgery) and Sekou Doumbouya (concussion), the Pistons needed Isaiah Stewart to start again at center, but when he got into foul trouble — with two fouls in the first three minutes, the Pistons were put in a tough spot with trying to fix the rotation. Stewart likely was told to be judicious with his fouls, but that didn’t seem to be the case in the first couple of minutes. He sat for the rest of the first quarter and returned after a couple of minutes in the second period and stayed out of serious foul trouble the rest of the way. Stewart finished with five points and six rebounds in 22 minutes.

►Playing small: Playing with only one true center on the active roster, the Pistons had to improvise throughout the game. They started both of their main options, with Stewart and Blake Griffin. After Stewart got in foul trouble early, Griffin moved to center. Later in the first half, Jerami Grant went to the bench early so that he could return and play center when Griffin went to the bench. That was a short stint, but it showed the creativity that the Pistons had to use in shuffling the lineup to accommodate the injuries and foul trouble. It didn’t hurt that the Pistons’ centers

►Blake’s contribution: For the first time this season, Griffin played both games of a back-to-back, and because of how thin they were in the frontcourt, there wasn’t much choice. Griffin played 35 minutes and had 12 points, four rebounds and six assists, with some good plays, including taking three charges. He’s not a big-time scorer on a nightly basis, but he’s finding other places to help out, which has contributed to the Pistons’ improved play.

“What Blake has been through and what he had to do to work just to get back on the court, that says a lot for him,” coach Dwane Casey said. “He’s special in that way and he’s put a lot of time in for what he’s been through. To go out tonight and get three charges, that doesn’t show up on the stat sheet, but three very important plays for us.

“For me and our team, that’s very, very important.”

►Second time around: In his second game with the Pistons, Dennis Smith Jr. had a better outing, coming off four points and two rebounds versus the Pacers on Thursday night. Smith bounced back with five assists in the first half against the Celtics and finished with five assists on Friday. He played most of the backup minutes and looked to be in a better rhythm with running the offense and finding open teammates. With Saben Lee inactive, Smith was going to get the chunk of minutes behind Delon Wright.


Twitter: @detnewsRodBeard

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