For the end of a long road trip, the Pistons’ effort against the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday night is to be commended.
A loss is still a loss, but some losses can provide lessons that can help a team improve later this year or even into next year. It seems that the Pistons are learning how to compete from the opening tip to the end of games a little more, which is something that they hadn’t done as consistently in years past.
The Pistons led for most of the 131-124 loss, and they had a very good shooting night, but just couldn’t put the clamps on the Clippers well enough to hold on in the fourth quarter.
“The physicality is something that great teams do; we have to get ready for that on the defensive end,” coach Dwane Casey said.
“They shot 63% and 57% from 3 and they had their way with us on the offensive end. They had no quit in them, which is very important.”
The Pistons (16-38) don’t play against until Wednesday, when they’ll have a rematch against the Clippers, and they could have Jerami Grant, who has missed the last three games because of knee soreness, back in the lineup. The Clippers were without Kawhi Leonard.
Here are some observations from the loss:
► The Pistons were moving the ball around well, with 33 assists on 46 made field goals. Cory Joseph led the way with 13 assists, and that ball movement, especially in the halfcourt offense, kept the Clippers guessing, and the shotmaking made for an intriguing game. It’ll be interesting to see if the Pistons can maintain that same energy in Wednesday’s rematch. The Pistons had 15 assists on their first 19 baskets, and without Grant, they become more unpredictable in whom they’ll run the offense through.
► The Clippers roster is loaded with former Pistons, including three of Sunday’s starters: Reggie Jackson, Luke Kennard and Marcus Morris. It was a breakout game for Morris, who had 33 points, going 6-for-8 on 3-pointers and shooting 13 of 18 overall. He was a menace in the paint, with the midrange jumper and from beyond the arc. Jackson had 12 points, five rebounds and seven assists and Kennard 11 points in 24 minutes. Casey called the Clippers “Detroit West,” with all the connections, including Chauncey Billups as an assistant coach and many others in their front office.
► It seemed that the Pistons’ lead was tenuous, at best, for much of the game. They were hitting their shots, but the Clippers were shooting more than 60% from the field, and they were getting easy shots from Morris and George.
“We said the first team that plays defense is going to win,” Casey said. “They have the firepower and the 3-point shooting and it’s tough to sustain getting tough twos when they’re hitting threes…We didn’t get consistent stops, especially in the fourth quarter.”
► Frank Jackson continues to show that he has plenty to offer the Pistons as a scorer off the bench. He had 16 points in 23 minutes, with a power dunk to punctuate his contributions.
Jackson keeps defenses honest because they have to respect his 3-point shooting, but when he’s cutting or getting to the rim, he brings a different dimension to the offense.
► Saddiq Bey continues to impress with his 3-point shooting, making another five triples on Sunday. He’s gone through some peaks and valleys this season, but his 113 3-pointers in his first 50 games ranks third in NBA history, which is saying a lot about both how many he’s taken and how consistent he’s become. More than that, he’s becoming a threat inside, where he can use his strength against smaller defenders and get easy baskets. He’s becoming quite the find for the Pistons.