Omari Sankofa II | Detroit Free Press
Jerami Grant and Zach LaVine matched each other basket for basket down the stretch in the fourth quarter Wednesday, but it was two Chicago Bulls’ role players who sunk crucial corner 3-pointers to fend off the Detroit Pistons.
The Pistons built a 25-point lead by the 2:36 mark of the second quarter, but fell apart in the second half, and the Bulls spoiled Grant’s career-high 43 points to pull off a comeback win, 105-102, at United Center.
Coby White and rookie Patrick Williams hit back-to-back 3s with 1:01 and 29 seconds left respectively to prevent the Pistons from getting a chance to retake the lead, and Delon Wright missed the game-tying 3 at the buzzer from straight on, hitting the front rim.
Grant started and finished the night strong, shooting 15-for-25 overall, 4-for-9 from 3 and 9-for-9 at the line.
LaVine led the Bulls (12-15) with 37 points to snap a two-game winning streak for Detroit, which retains the NBA’s second-worst record at 8-20.
The game wasn’t scheduled until Tuesday, after both teams had contests postponed, leaving an open day for the Central Division foes.
This was the first of a five-game road trip for the Pistons, who visit Memphis on Friday, play in Orlando for two, then visit New Orleans.
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After brief skid, Grant delivers career night
Grant has been the Pistons’ most reliable player this season, and started the year off on fire. He reached the 20-point threshold in 20 of his first 24 games, and was both consistent and efficient night-in and out.
He was due for regression, and it finally hit him last week. Entering Wednesday, he averaged 13 points, four rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.7 blocks while shooting 27.1% overall in his past three games. The Pistons’ unexpected two-day layoff appears to have been beneficial for him, because he bounced back against the Bulls.
Grant had a strong first quarter, scoring 13 points on 5-for-7 shooting and 3-for-3 from 3 to help the Pistons build an early eight-point lead. Even when the Pistons went cold in the second half, he kept the Pistons afloat. He scored six of Detroit’s 12 points in the third quarter — a quarter that saw a double-digit lead trimmed to three by the end — and converted several timely buckets in the fourth quarter as Chicago threatened to run away with the game.
He clinched his career night with 19 points in the fourth quarter, making six of eight attempts.
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The acclimation process continues for Dennis Smith Jr.
Before he made his debut with the Pistons last Thursday, Smith quarantined for a whopping eight days. The Knicks assigned him to the G League bubble Feb. 1, and then he was traded before he was able to participate in any live action. So he had some rust to work off, and conditioning to improve once he arrived in Detroit.
Wednesday was his best outing with the Pistons, scoring 10 points and hitting four of nine shot attempts in 16 minutes. A few of his shots required some touch — a pull-up 3 midway through the second, and a couple tough learners near the rim. Each game has been better than the last for Smith, who’s finding his rhythm after a few down seasons with the Knicks.
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Saddiq Bey improving as a scorer inside
Bey, the reigning Eastern Conference Player of the Week, has done most of his scoring from behind-the-arc this season. He’s a natural marksman, but finishing inside the arc has been a struggle. In his first 21 games, he converted 15 of 47 2-point attempts (31.9%).
He’s a full-time starter now, with Blake Griffin out of the rotation, and coming off of the heels of a hot shooting week. In his past four games before Wednesday, he averaged 17.8 points while shooting 25 of 35 (71.4%) overall.
Bey had an off-shooting night from outside in Chicago, finishing with 12 points, seven rebounds and three assists. He missed four of his five 3s. But he made two shots near the rim — a layup after a quick cut, and a tough layup through contact — to show his improvement as a scorer may not be a fluke.
Contact Omari Sankofa II at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @omarisankofa. Read more on the Detroit Pistons and sign up for our Pistons newsletter.