Comeback bid falls short for Detroit Pistons in 110-107 home loss to Sacramento Kings

Detroit Free Press

Omari Sankofa II
 
| Detroit Free Press

Dennis Smith Jr. tied the game at 71 midway through the third quarter, confidently stepping into a 3-pointer. It got downgraded to a 2-pointer not long after, however. His foot was on the line. 

Smith made up for it in style during the Detroit Pistons’ next offensive possession, dribbling across the 3-point line and launching when he had enough space. It gave the Pistons their first lead of the night, and helped to solidify Smith’s best outing with the franchise. 

He finished with 17 points, doing most of his damage in the third quarter. It wasn’t enough for the Pistons, however, who overcame a 17-point first-quarter deficit but couldn’t finish the comeback, losing 110-107 to the Sacramento Kings.

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The Pistons had a chance to take the lead with 12.9 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, when a potential game-icing tip-in by Buddy Hield was overturned and whistled as an over-the-back foul following a challenge by Dwane Casey. Detroit trailed by two, 106-104, but Josh Jackson missed the two ensuing free throws (the second intentionally), and the Pistons couldn’t close the gap.

Jerami Grant added 30 points and made 14 of a career-high 15 free throw attempts. Saddiq Bey added 17 points and six rebounds, and Jackson scored 14 off of the bench. De’Aaron Fox led Sacramento with 27 points, six assists and five rebounds. 

Strong third quarter by Smith puts Pistons back in game

It seems as though Smith has gotten better for the Pistons each game since his arrival. His first signature play in Detroit happened toward the end of the second quarter, when he found an open lane and delivered a thunderous dunk between two Kings defenders. 

He followed that with an 11-point third quarter, including that 3-into-a-2-pointer and a beautiful scooping layup to extend Detroit’s lead back to two, 75-73. It capped a personal 7-2 run for Smith, who looked more like the explosive, score-first point guard who was drafted ninth overall by the Dallas Mavericks in 2017.  

Smith checked back in midway through the fourth, after Hield tied the game at 91 with a pair of free throws. He immediately drained his second 3-pointer with Fox defending him to give Detroit the lead again. 

Friday was Smith’s fourth consecutive start, with Delon Wright a week away from being re-evaluated with a groin strain. His 17 points and six assists were both season highs. The Pistons’ point guard rotation will be especially strong once Wright returns. Point guard Saben Lee, playing again on his two-way contract, also had a solid night with eight points and four assists in 21 minutes, closing what has been a strong week for the rookie on a good note. 

Ellington’s month-long slump continues

Wayne Ellington was one of the NBA’s best 3-point shooters in January. The veteran sharpshooter hit 52.2% while taking 6.6 attempts per game during the month and made 31 over a five-game span at one point, setting a franchise record. 

Since Jan. 30, though, he has been a different player. From then to Friday, he had made just 10 of his 53 attempts — 18.9%. Overall, he was shooting just 28.8% in February. 

Ellington has been in the starting lineup since early January, and there haven’t been any indications that Dwane Casey will tweak his role. But Ellington’s backup, Svi Mykhailiuk, has slowly been improving his shooting splits after a cold start.

Bey gradually improving as a passer

While he isn’t a consistent creator for the Pistons yet, Saddiq Bey has been moving the ball significantly better during the last two weeks. In his first 25 games this season, he dished out 22 assists. In six games from Feb. 14-25, he tallied 15 assists. 

Bey is learning how to punish defenses that aggressively close out on his shooting, which remained potent on Friday. He finished with 17 points and hit five of his nine 3-point attempts. He also added six rebounds and two assists.

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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