Observations: Pistons get it done without top scorers in impressive win over Raptors

Detroit News

Rod Beard
| The Detroit News

The Pistons notched one of the most impressive wins of the season on Wednesday night, taking down the Toronto Raptors, 129-105, at Amalie Arena in Tampa. They put together an impressive performance that featured two triple-doubles and some other notable production from their bench, which has been one of the best in the league.

Wayne Ellington wasn’t the only standout, with his season-high 25 points. There were several others who contributed to the notable win for the Pistons (10-25) Here are some observations from the victory.

NO TOP-5 SCORERS: Necessity became the mother of invention, and the Pistons found a way to manufacture points without their top five scorers this season. With Jerami Grant (quad contusion), Josh Jackson (illness), Delon Wright (groin strain) and Blake Griffin (not with team) out, the question of where the Pistons would get scoring was a valid one. Ellington carried the flag for the Pistons, tying his career high with eight 3-pointers. When the Pistons looked to be listless and fading because they didn’t have a go-to scorer, Ellington became that option with his three 3-pointers in the first quarter. He added four more in a decisive third-quarter run that helped stretch the lead to 19 entering the final period.

3-POINT SHOOTING: The Pistons finished 20-of-41 on 3-pointers, including eight from Ellington (25 points), five from Svi Mykhailiuk, who had 17 points, and four from Rodney McGruder. That the Pistons shot so well from beyond the arc is a testament to their ball movement, which opened the looks with the extra pass and unselfish play.

“We’ve got to play that way; that’s got to be our identity. It gets stuck sometimes, but we’ve got to continue to move it, especially against good defensive teams,” Casey said. “We feel like option No. 1 and it’s over. Tonight, they took away the first option, but we continued to get multiple paint touches and get the ball to the weak side.

“A lot of it didn’t turn into points, but what it did was soften up the defense and open up gaps on the weak side. And you have to play in today’s NBA because everybody’s playing a semi-zone when they’re in man-to-man.”

TWIN TRIPLE-DOUBLES: Mason Plumlee and Dennis Smith Jr. became just the 12th pair of teammates to post a triple-double in the same game, and the second duo in Pistons history. The first was in 1964, from Donnie Butcher and Ray Scott. They both went down to the closing minutes in the fourth quarter looking to complete the rare feat. Plumlee needed a rebound, and ended up getting two down the stretch. Smith’s final addition was an assist, making for a jubilant bench group. It was the third triple-double of Smith’s career and the second — both this season — for Plumlee, who was effective as the Pistons’ offensive hub in the first half, when he got seven of those assists.

MORE FROM LEE: Saben Lee had another noteworthy game with 21 points, one off of his career high, but it was lost in the mix of the other record-setting performances. Lee went 8-of-11 from the field and didn’t attempt a 3-pointer, but made 4 of 5 free throws. He added seven assists as well, and was effective in penetrating the defense and finding easy baskets off passes. His 20 points came in just 20 minutes, which showed how much more he’s finding offense without disrupting the flow of things going on around him. The seven assists were a good balance of finding others and seeking his own scoring, which is a skill he’s getting better at.

MORE BENCH HELP: McGruder had just 25 points total in 10 games this season, but almost topped that with his production on Wednesday. He took mostly open shots, but he made them, including 4-of-6 from beyond the arc. His five assists were fourth on the team, which totaled 39 on their 48 field goals. It was an impressive display of moving the ball around, but with no definitive go-to scorer, they were able to spread the ball around and get more players involved, which made them harder to defend. As Casey pointed out, they had many of the same open shots against the Knicks on Sunday, but didn’t make them, which will be the challenge when the get another shot at the Knicks on Thursday to finish out the first half of the season.


Twitter: @detnewsRodBeard

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