The Pistons were embarrassed in a 44-point loss to the Knicks on Saturday night, but they set the tone in the early minutes against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday night and got a timely 132-108 win.
Coach Dwane Casey blasted the lackluster play and leadership by the veteran players in Saturday’s game but he said he liked the way they came out with a different level of intensity against the Thunder.
The Pistons (15-35) had seven players score in double figures, led by Jerami Grant, who had 21 points, five rebounds and five assists. Sekou Doumbouya added a season-high 14 points and Isaiah Stewart 12 points, six rebounds and four blocks.
Here are some takeaways from the victory:
► More like it: Doumbouya had been struggling offensively for most of the season, mostly due to having shorter stints and being at the back of the playing rotation. His 23 minutes on Monday marked the third-highest total he’s had all season, and although he went 5-of-11 from the field, he went 2-of-6 on 3-pointers. The biggest takeaway was that he was active on both ends of the court and didn’t force shots. His activity ingrained him into the flow of the game as a bulkier defender on the Thunder’s 7-footer, Aleksej Pokusevski, an assignment that drew some praise from Casey.
► Stew’s cooking: Stewart had a career-high four blocks, which all came in the first quarter, and they provided another stabilizing force for the Pistons’ defensive mentality early. Stewart also was active on the offensive end, going 4-of-6, but making more noise with his jump shot than he did on putbacks. He’s gotten more comfortable with jumpers from the elbow and free-throw line extended. That has helped pull defenders further out and open driving lanes for teammates. It’s a work in progress, but he’s getting more confidence in that shot.
► Point connection: Killian Hayes had nine points and seven assists and looked a lot more comfortable than he did in his first game back on Saturday against the Knicks. He mainly played as a point guard on Monday, but he was off the ball in the previous game. His passing and defense are his strengths, but he’s showing that when given the space, he can make midrange jumpers, which will help everything on the court when he’s more comfortable. Hayes had a nice connection with Hamidou Diallo on an alley-oop, which drew some praise from Diallo: “Killian can pass the basketball. I’m just going to leave it at that. He can pass the basketball.”
► Dou-ing it well: In his first game back against his former team, Diallo had a good showing, with 11 points, eight rebounds and four assists. He’s proving to be a better rebounder than some had thought, which will be a big help for the Pistons. His athleticism has been his calling card, but he’s showing he can do other things, and as he gets more acclimated to the system, he can be much more effective on both ends of the court. His 3-point shooting also is better than expected, going 6-of-11 from beyond the arc in five games.
► In the reserves: The Pistons have had one of the best bench units in the league, averaging about 41 points per game. They exceeded that again in the lopsided victory, with 67 points, including three in double figures and three more with nine points. It’s the kind of balance that can keep them in games even when their starting unit doesn’t have its game and they need someone from the second unit to chip in. It won’t be that way every game, but it’s good to have, especially to start a long road trip.