The Detroit Pistons showed again that they can play very well, especially when the opponent doesn’t bother to show up. In a 111-97 win over Memphis Grizzlies, the team took the lead in the second quarter and never give it back. Motown’s youngsters were sharp down the stretch to seal the deal, making Pistons fans much less envious about Grizzlies’ young core. For Memphis, the game was like its whole season in a nutshell. It also displayed how important it is to have a shot at absolute top talent in the draft, and Detroit’s win tonight makes securing that top talent just a little bit less likely.
The game started with the home team struggling to stop Grizzlies big man Jonas Valenciunas inside. But Detroit stayed close thanks to another hot start from Sekou Doumbouya, scoring 8 first-quarter points and dishing an assist. Veteran Cory Joseph also started strong, orchestrating the team’s offense from the point guard spot very competently (8 points and 6 assists).
In the second period, Pistons turned to another veteran, Wayne Ellington, whose 3-point spree helped the good guys build a nine-point halftime lead (58-49). Frank Jackson and Isaiah Stewart seconded Wayne with 4 points apiece in the frame.
After the break, Motown was able to keep the visitors at a safe distance with a consistent margin of a couple of possessions. Memphis made a run to close the gap to two with 3:39 remaining in the third quarter. But Isaiah’s activity and Ellington’s long gun pushed the lead to 8 points (78-70) after three frames.
In the last period, Detroit didn’t take their foot off the gas. This time it was Jahlil Okafor’s turn to contribute. In the first 6 minutes of the quarter, Jahlil scored 8 points and grabbed 2 boards. The Grizzlies tried to fight back, but when the lead decreased to two again (91-89 with 6:08 remaining in the game), Detroit’s youth took matters into their own hands. Frank drew a foul on a triple try, Saddiq Bey scored a two and then he and Sekou sent Memphis packing with this pretty sequence.
Detroit won due to a joint effort across the team. Seven Pistons players scored in double figures. Cory and Wayne led the way with 18 points each (Joseph added 11 assists against only one turnover, while Wayne made 6 from 10 shots beyond the arc). Isaiah had 15 points, though he missed all 5 attempts from the long line, and 7 rebounds, an assist and 3 blocks. Sekou chipped in 14 points, and even though he also missed all (3) attempts from the long line, he made half of his shots them the field. The young forward added 6 boards, 2 assists and 2 stocks. Saddiq was quieter in the game, taking only 7 shots, making 4 of them (including 3-of-4 from triple-land), to finish with 13 points (plus 5 boards and an assist). Jahlil also scored 13 points (on 6-of-9 shooting) and 5 boards. Finally, Frank had a quieter night as well, scoring 11 points on 6 shots, adding 2 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals.
Also the players who didn’t score in double figures contributed well. Tyler Cook made a three and another field goal to end the game with 5 points to go with 5 boards and a steal. Saben Lee had 4 points, 4 assists, 3 boards and a block. But the distribution of playing time between him and Cory could be better as Saben played only 13 minutes. Taking advantage of Killian Hayes’ absence because of illness, Joseph gave a good lesson for Detroit’s young guards concerning how to run team’s offense. But the lesson would be the same even if he played half the minutes.
With the win, Detroit put its draft matters on the edge. The team doesn’t have any more room for error in the battle for second lottery odds with a marquee matchup coming next Tuesday when they take on Minnesota Timberwolves at home.