Observations: How Pistons’ Saben Lee is maximizing his sliver of a chance

Detroit News

Rod Beard | The Detroit News

The Pistons dropped their third straight game, a 105-96 loss to the Orlando Magic, on Sunday night at Amway Center.

The offense is struggling with some open shots that aren’t falling, and their defense didn’t do much to slow down Orlando’s Nikola Vucevic (37 points) and Evan Fournier (29 points). They’ll get a chance to make some corrections before Tuesday’s rematch in Orlando.

Jerami Grant had 24 points, Josh Jackson 17 points and 10 rebounds and rookie Saben Lee had career highs with 12 points, four rebounds and five assists.

Here are some observations from the loss:

Point taken: Rookie Saben Lee has had to wait his turn to get playing time, but with the spate of injuries, he’s been pushed into more minutes and he shined in his most extensive playing time of the season. He’s getting better at controlling the pace and being able to find the open teammates in the corners for 3-point opportunities. Whether the shot falls isn’t as consequential as his technique in getting the ball there on time and on target.

Point taken II: With the injury to Delon Wright, Dennis Smith Jr. got his first start at point guard with the Pistons. He had a slow start, but after Saben Lee played the second quarter, Smith had a better third quarter, including back-to-back 3-pointers that helped cut a 12-point lead in half and keep the Pistons close. Although Smith has more playing experience, he’s only been with the team for a couple of weeks and doesn’t look quite as comfortable as Lee does at times.

Almost dunk: Lee made another impression — and almost a bigger one — on a drive to the basket, which was defended by Vucevic. Lee rose above the 7-foot center and had his head above the rim but missed the dunk attempt. If it had gone, it would have been a highlight reminiscent of what Minnesota rookie Anthony Edwards did against the Toronto Raptors on Friday night.

“I just saw the lane and tried to go finish,” Lee said, “but that was a missed attempt, so it wasn’t good for the team.”

Jackson’s contribution: Josh Jackson had another productive game with 17 points and 10 rebounds off the bench. He’s playing bigger chunks of time, mainly because of his defensive intensity. Jackson played 32 minutes, which was more than everyone except Jerami Grant and Lee, who had 35 and 33 minutes, respectively. He’s been more aggressive as well, going 7-of-23 from the field, but he missed all six of his 3-point attempts.

Bench help: The Pistons continue to have one of the best bench units in the league, and they showed it again Sunday, with 42 points from their reserves, led by 17 from Jackson and 12 from Lee. They had been producing more, but Saddiq Bey moved into the starting group, accounting for some of that production.

Rod.Beard@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @detnewsRodBeard

 

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