The Detroit Pistons and Memphis Grizzlies entered Thursday’s game at Little Caesars Arena in the midst of different stages of their respective rebuilds.
The Grizzlies are in the thick of the Western Conference playoff race a season after selecting Ja Morant with the second overall pick. The Pistons, in the first year of their rebuild, have been resting many of their veterans with the hope of having the team healthy ahead of an important offseason. Seven players — including rookie point guard Killian Hayes, due to illness — missed the game for Detroit.
Despite the teams’ opposite trends, the Pistons (20-47) walked away with a decisive win, defeating the Grizzlies 111-97.
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Detroit was led by two veterans who had missed the previous four games — Wayne Ellington scored 18 points and hit six of 10 3-point attempts, and Cory Joseph had a double-double, with 18 points and 11 assists.
The Pistons also saw strong contributions from their young players. Isaiah Stewart tallied 15 points, seven rebounds and three blocks and Sekou Doumbouya added 14 points and six rebounds.
Detroit took control of the game in the second quarter and entered halftime with a 58-49 lead. The Grizzlies committed several mistakes down the stretch in the fourth quarter that ultimately cost them the game, and a Saddiq Bey 3-pointer with just over two minutes to go sealed the win for Detroit.
Veterans give Pistons a lift
Before Thursday, it had been nearly two weeks since Joseph and Elllington played for the Pistons, in an April 26 14-point win over the Atlanta Hawks.
The Pistons have been sitting their veterans during this final stretch of the season, clearing the way for young players to receive more minutes. It hasn’t always been smooth, with losses in the past four games for the Pistons.
They certainly looked more stable Thursday with Joseph and Ellington back in the rotation, as the vets were the Pistons’ best players.
Joseph was aggressive early, finishing the first quarter with eight points and six assists. It helped the Pistons weather an early Grizzlies run. Memphis took a 28-21 lead late in the quarter, but Detroit closed it with a 10-4 run to narrow the deficit to one entering the second Joseph scored or assisted all 10 points during the run.
It was also a vintage performance for Ellington, who hit six 3-pointers for the first time since hitting eight on March 3.
Sekou Doumbouya has second-straight encouraging performance
When Doumbouya’s first shot of the game — a 3-pointer — completely missed the rim, it appeared to be a bad omen for the night ahead for him.
Turns out, it wasn’t. Doumbouya is an effective player when he sticks to his strengths, and he picked up where he left off from Tuesday’s game — a 20-point night against the Charlotte Hornets. He finished his looks at the rim, attacked space and didn’t hesitate when he had the ball in transition.
Doumbouya hit four of his six shots in the first quarter, using his body to create space and finish at the rim. He also had a nice feed to Stewart for a dunk midway through the third quarter. Rather than taking an open 3-point shot, he took it to the rim and dumped it off to Stewart after drawing the defense’s attention.