Detroit — With a short bench and four of their top five scorers out, the Pistons got a nice pick-me-up from a pair of unlikely sources.
Hamidou Diallo had a breakout game, setting a new career high, and Sekou Doumbouya notched a season-high and kept the Pistons within breathing distance.
It wasn’t enough.
The Pistons were within one with just under five minutes remaining, but they made some miscues and couldn’t get stops and fell to the Charlotte Hornets, 102-99, on Tuesday night at Little Caesars Arena.
On the second night of a back-to-back, they needed all the help they could get, with seven players sitting because of rest or injury. That left 10 players available, and the Pistons (19-47) made the best of the shorthanded situation.
Diallo finished with 35 points, on 14-of-22 shooting and 4-of-6 on 3-pointers. He scored 14 in the fourth quarter, including a rainbow 3-pointer that pulled the Pistons within two with 31.7 seconds left.
“His energy level was a lot higher than a lot of our guys, then he got in attack mode and he knocked down his 3-point shots. He played with a lot of energy, a lot of force,” coach Dwane Casey said. “It’s one step in his growth of being one of the elite players in our league.”
On the next possession, the Hornets (32-33) turned the ball over when Caleb Martin stepped out of bounds. The Pistons had a chance to tie it after Killian Hayes was fouled, but he missed the first and hit the second free throw, and the Pistons trailed, 100-99, with 8.3 seconds left.
Ball made two free throws with 5.8 seconds left for a three-point margin and the Pistons had a last shot to tie, but Hayes’ 3-pointer was off the mark.
The Hornets created some distance at the start of the fourth with back-to-back baskets by LaMelo Ball (23 points, seven rebounds and six assists), for an 82-72 lead at the 11:12 mark. Diallo ended the run with a drive to the basket.
The Hornets had an answer, with a drive by Brad Wanamaker (15 points, five rebounds and four assists), along with a dunk by Jalen McDaniels (10 points) and a tip-in by Zeller (11 points and eight rebounds) to push the lead back to seven.
The Pistons responded with a drive by Diallo and a 3-pointer by Saddiq Bey to get within two. They never got over the hump, though, as the Hornets kept them at bay. Ball, who had 11 points in the final period, hit a floater, and Jackson answered with a jumper.
Terry Rozier (18 points and six assist) scored on a drive with 1:31 left to keep the lead at four and after Isaiah Stewart split a pair of free throws, Rozier made a basket and had a chance at a three-point play, but missed the free throw, giving the Hornets a 100-95 lead with 41.9 seconds left.
Diallo hit his final 3-pointer and Hayes split the free throw, but the Hornets were able to hold on.
Doumbouya had a big third quarter, with nine points, and thrived in a season-high 34 minutes. With more playing time available, he’s looking more comfortable in the extended minutes.
“I know that I’m going to play. I just have to take advantage of that and be ready,” Doumbouya said. “I know the coach is going to put me in, no matter what happens … I’m just playing free right now.”