Observations: Pistons spread offense out but struggle without Jerami Grant

Detroit News

Rod Beard | The Detroit News

The Pistons finished their five-game road trip with just one win, including Wednesday’s 128-118 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans, when they ran out of gas in the fourth quarter. Playing without Jerami Grant, who sat out to rest, they had a challenge to fill that scoring void.

They found ways to spread things around, and after a high-scoring first half, the Pelicans ran away, behind Zion Williamson (32 points) and Brandon Ingram (27 points). New Orleans had 26 fast-break points and although the Pistons had only 13 turnovers, playing without Grant, their best defensive player, was tough to overcome.

The Pistons return to action on Friday at home against the Sacramento Kings.

Here are some observations from Wednesday’s loss:

LEADING THE WAY: Jerami Grant, the Pistons’ leading scorer, sat out for the first time this season, taking a rest. The Pistons made up for his scoring by spreading it around, with six players in double figures, led by Josh Jackson’s 25 points. Grant’s absence gave an opportunity for Sekou Doumbouya to get a start at power forward. It also made for a thin frontcourt at power forward, especially when Doumbouya got his fourth and fifth fouls midway through the third quarter, which meant a bigger reliance on Saddiq Bey at power forward.

OPENING STATEMENT: The Pistons had their highest-scoring first quarter of the season, with 39 points. They shot 58% (14-of-24) from the field and 54% (7-of-13) on 3-pointers. It was a good balance, with six players scoring from beyond the arc in the opening period, including a 16-5 margin off the bench. Josh Jackson sparked the first group and Isaiah Stewart had some good defense on Zion Williamson. They continued it through the second quarter, finishing with a season-high 69 points in the first half, on 53% field goals. Their previous high, 63 points, came in the first meeting against the Pelicans on Feb. 14.

More: Pistons’ second-half schedule revealed; here is who they’re playing

POINT GUARD ENCORE: Saben Lee and Dennis Smith had another solid performance in the backcourt. After combining for 35 points on Tuesday against the Orlando Magic, the point guards teamed for 24 points, with Lee accounting for 13, along with a combined 11 assists. Smith got the start again but Lee had another solid chunk of the minutes down the stretch and he was solid from the field, making his only 3-point attempt as well, pushing him to 4-of-4 in the past two games. Lee had been playing a bulk of the minutes in recent games, but on Wednesday on the back-to-back, he had 22 and Smith had the other 26 at point guard. Smith is looking better as he plays more, with his ability to penetrate and to augment it with his 3-point shooting.

PLUMLEE PRODUCTION: In the first meeting on Feb. 14, Mason Plumlee had a triple-double, and he came close again, with 21 points, nine rebounds, seven assists and four blocks. He played well in having to defend Steven Adams, who had a good game on both ends, with 14 points and 15 rebounds, but with some of those minutes going to Isaiah Stewart, who chipped in 11 points and 10 rebounds, it was a good combination at the center position. There are some centers against whom Plumlee will be more effective, and it seems that Adams is one of those. His passing has been solid all season and his defense is good, which makes him a good acquisition in free agency during the Pistons’ rebuild.

MORE BEY: In a starting role, Bey continued his solid play, with 13 points. He was 4-of-8 from the field and 3-of-6 on 3-pointers. Since he’s been a full-time starter, he’s been pushing double figures each game and doing it on efficient shooting. His defense has been good on this road trip, with some solid stints against good opposing wings. That’s been one of the big developments, in that he’s been working out not only offensively, but making some head-turning plays on the defensive end as well.

Rod.Beard@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @detnewsRodBeard

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