Where the Detroit Pistons’ youth movement showed promise in loss to New Orleans Pelicans

Detroit Free Press

Omari Sankofa II | Detroit Free Press

Sekou Doumbouya got his second start of the season. Isaiah Stewart finished a Eurostep layup in transition. Saddiq Bey nearly dunked on Willy Hernangomez. Saben Lee continued his week of excellence.

The Detroit Pistons lost 128-118 to the New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday, but for fans, it was a game that offered excitement for the future. Jerami Grant missed his first game of the season due to rest and his absence opened playing time for Detroit’s young players.

Despite the double-digit deficit at the final buzzer, it was a competitive game throughout, and all of the aforementioned players contributed in keeping the team close.

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“The future is bright,” Dwane Casey said. “It’s ugly right now by getting our butts kicked. The future is very bright with the guys we have. We have some high-character guys, solid talent, solid guys. When you’ve got a young man like Killian coming in, it’s going to help them a lot. The future is very bright for our team and I like what we have, all of the players.

“Josh (Jackson) is still young, Isaiah, all those young guys contributed in the right way. That’s why it’s exciting to think about the coming future. Add some pieces, make some moves, whatever it is. The foundation is being built in front of us right now.”

The Pistons (9-23) built a 10-point lead early in the second quarter behind a strong run by Svi Mykhailiuk, Lee, Jackson, Bey and Stewart. That five-man lineup took over at the 3:13 mark of the first quarter, with the Pistons trailing 26-24. When Doumbouya and Wayne Ellington subbed in for Jackson and Bey at the 8:13 mark of the second quarter, Detroit had taken a 49-41 lead, outscoring the Pelicans 25-15.

Stewart logged his third career double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds. Bey and Lee each scored 13, and Lee is now shooting 17-for-26 in his last three games.

Mykhailiuk scored 12 and made four of his nine 3-point attempts. Dennis Smith Jr. had his most involved game with the Pistons as a facilitator with 11 points, seven assists and three steals.

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Doumbouya nearly fouled out of the game, picking up five in 23 minutes while defending two of the Western Conference’s best scorers, Zion Williamson (32 points on Wednesday) and Brandon Ingram (27 points). But with Grant on the bench, the Pistons needed Doumbouya’s size. Referees assessed some soft fouls on a few of his contests, and he had some nice defensive possessions.

Casey said his lack of experience playing long minutes caught up to him. It was only his fourth time playing more than 20 in a game this season.

“That’s who he’s gotta be in our league,” Casey said. “He’s gotta be that defender with that size and power, the big 3s and the small 4s, that’s his position. I thought he had a good physical stance a few times, but again, I just thought the extended minutes that he got, not being used in those situations starting and getting long minutes, long stretches, caught up with it.”

Jackson led the Pistons with 23 points off of the bench. In the end, the Pistons ran out of firepower while playing their third game in four nights. Detroit led by five at halftime, but was outscored 32-22 in the fourth quarter. Casey said the Pelicans (14-17) scoring 26 points in transition highlighted the Pistons’ lack of energy.

“This builds calluses,” Casey said. “This entire season will build calluses and games like tonight, back-to-backs we’re going to face, if you’re shorthanded or whatever it is — it’s going to build calluses for the coming years.”

Contact Omari Sankofa II at osankofa@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @omarisankofa. Read more on the Detroit Pistons and sign up for our Pistons newsletter.

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