Hamidou Diallo making case for bigger Detroit Pistons role — or to get paid in free agency

Detroit Free Press

On a night where the Pistons didn’t have much energy as a collective team, they got plenty of it from Hamidou Diallo.

The third-year shooting guard had the best performance of his career Tuesday, scoring a career-high 35 points and grabbing seven rebounds during a 109-99 loss to the Charlotte Hornets. Diallo made 14 of his 22 shot attempts and hit four 3-pointers. Most impressively, he did it all while fasting for Ramadan.

RECAP: Hamidou Diallo delivers career night as Detroit Pistons fall to Charlotte Hornets, 102-99

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Diallo and Sekou Doumbouya, who was Detroit’s second-leading scorer with a season-high 20 points and eight rebounds, practice Islam. Ramadan, which is being observed from April 12 to May 12 this year, requires Muslims to fast from sunup and sundown.

Diallo scored 14 of his 35 points in the fourth quarter, including 10 points in the final six minutes of the game to cut the deficit to two, 100-98, before the Hornets pulled away.

He and Doumbouya were snacking on the bench during the game, Dwane Casey said.

“Fasting, it’s definitely tough,” Diallo said. “It’s something that culturally, we just buy into and we come out here, we know what we’re doing. We know all of our teammates support us, the coaches support us. We just try to lock-in. The time keeps going back and back, so for me and Sekou it’s been tough. Like we said, God is Allah, Allah has us. We’re just going to keep fighting and keep pushing through.”

Diallo’s career night continued what’s been an upswing for him after slumping in mid-April. He averaged 13.3 points and 6.7 rebounds in his previous three games before Tuesday while shooting 51.9% and 37.5% from 3. In his six games before that, he was just 6-for-34 overall and 1-for-5 from 3.

He made many of his shots in the paint, per usual. His biggest strength on offense is his ability to get to the rim — but he was accurate from downtown against the Hornets, making four of his six 3-point attempts.

Diallo shot 29.3% from 3 with the Oklahoma City Thunder this season before being traded to Detroit. In his previous two seasons, he shot 28.1% and 16.7% from deep, on minimal attempts. Though he’s only attempting 1.6 3-pointers per game as a Piston, it’s a career-high in volume for him, and he knocked them down at a 40% clip before Tuesday.

“His energy level was a lot higher than a lot of our guys, and his attack mode was going,” Dwane Casey said. “And then he knocked down his 3-point shot, which is something that he’s going to continue to develop. Tonight it was on. He played with a lot of energy, a lot of force going downhill.

“And he took the challenge of guarding (Terry) Rozier, which was big time. Tonight was a career night for him, really proud for him and one step in his growth of being one of the elite players in our league.”

As he prepares for restricted free agency this summer, Diallo’s finding his rhythm at the right time. Tuesday was his second consecutive start. He’s shown that he can impact the game in a variety of ways. He’s one of the most effective rebounders in the NBA at the wing positions, securing 24 in his last three games. The coaching staff trusts him with challenging defensive assignments — he was tasked with containing Rozier and helped badger him into shooting 8-for-23 overall and 2-for-9 from 3.

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The continued emergence of his outside shot and all-around offensive game could help him earn a bigger share of minutes with the season winding down. The 40 minutes played Tuesday marked his season-high with the Pistons.

“Anything that’s called upon me to do on this team, to get this team wins, I’m willing to do it,” Diallo said. “If it’s come out and go out there and score the basketball, guard the best player on the other team and do the nitty gritty work, that’s the type of player I am. I’m the type of player to come out there and do what’s needed to win, and elevate the team with my feel and my competitiveness. I feel like on a night-in, night-out basis, I have to hang my hat on being who I am, coming out there, being the aggressor, bringing energy to the team and competing.”

Contact Omari Sankofa II at osankofa@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @omarisankofa. The Free Press has started a new digital subscription model. Here’s how you can gain access to our most exclusive Pistons content.

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