‘I liked our disposition’: Shorthanded Pistons show fight in preseason loss to Knicks

Detroit News

After the Pistons’ 35-point loss in Monday’s matchup against the Memphis Grizzlies, there were plenty of causes for concern. Coach Dwane Casey wasn’t happy with the rebounding, turnovers, fouls and overall effort the team showed.

Against the New York Knicks on Wednesday, the Pistons showed some moxie, playing without three of their starters, and leading for most of the middle two quarters, before falling to the Knicks, 108-100, at Madison Square Garden.

Jerami Grant had 18 points, four rebounds and two blocks, Saben Lee 14 points and four assists, Frank Jackson 12 points and seven rebounds and Josh Jackson 10 points, five rebounds and four assists for the Pistons (1-2), who finish the preseason on Friday at Little Caesars Arena against the Philadelphia 76ers.

“I liked our disposition,” Casey said after Wednesday’s loss. “It was a totally different disposition than what we presented in Memphis — and that’s what we were looking for.”

In the fourth quarter, the Knicks (3-0) extended their lead to 90-80 on a 3-pointer by Alec Burks, but the Pistons answered with a drive by Cory Joseph, a dunk by Trey Lyles and a pair of free throws by Hamidou Diallo, off a flagrant foul. On the ensuing possession, Grant scored on a dunk and the lead was down to two.

Burks followed with a jumper, starting an 11-2 run, punctuated by a 3-pointer by Julius Randle (29 points and 11 rebounds and five assists), giving the Knicks their biggest lead of the game, 103-90.

In the third quarter, the Pistons had climbed ahead, 77-72, with under three minutes remaining, but the Knicks finished the period on a 10-0 run and moved ahead by five.

Here are some takeaways from the Pistons’ loss:

► Shorthanded starters: In addition to being without Cade Cunningham and Saddiq Bey, who both have a sprained ankle, the Pistons added to their injury woes with Killian Hayes’ concussion. That meant the Pistons were without three starters and had to make a patchwork lineup with Saben Lee, Frank Jackson and Josh Jackson in their place.

Casey said that Hayes sustained the concussion in the second half of Monday’s loss to the Memphis Grizzlies. It wasn’t immediately diagnosed, but after Hayes had troubled with seeing things on his cell phone, there was more concern about his condition. They will continue to evaluate Hayes, who has to pass three tests and participate in a practice before he is cleared to return to play.

Casey had said that he wanted to keep the second unit intact, with Cory Joseph, Trey Lyles and Kelly Olynyk anchoring that group, but the injuries forced his hand to break up that group to make the starting lineup.

Unsung rookie: Rookie Jamorko Pickett was one of the surprises during Summer League, and although he didn’t have big scoring numbers in the first two preseason games, he showed some flash against the Knicks.

Pickett ended the first quarter with a tip-in at the buzzer, then hit a tough, contested 3-pointer and added another tip-in in the second quarter, for seven first-half points.

“I paid my dues in college and every single day, every single game, I’m going to prove that I belong here,” said Pickett, who finished with seven points and five rebounds in 17 minutes.

Pickett got some quality minutes because of the injury to Bey, which opened some playing time in the rotation. Pickett is on a two-way contract, but he’s showing that he could be a contributor if the Pistons need his size and ability on the main roster.

Casey credits Georgetown coach Patrick Ewing — the former Knicks icon — for helping Pickett develop during his college career.

“These exhibition games and experience going against physical teams like Memphis and New York are going to pay dividends for him,” Casey said.

Lee’s turnaround: Saben Lee had a good Summer League, shooting well from 3-point range, but nothing like the game he had Wednesday. Lee was impressive with four 3-pointers against the Knicks.

It’s been a journey for Lee to find his groove on the offensive end, but he’s been a difference-maker with his speed and athleticism. Casey said he wants to see Lee focus more on his offense, and the second-year guard brought that presence against the Knicks.

When Lee gets his feet under him and has a good look at the rim, he’s a lot more effective, and his patience with the ball in his hands was a positive as well. It’s a good step for him to try to carve out some minutes, especially when the Pistons are shorthanded because of the injuries to Cade Cunningham and Killian Hayes.

“I’m still trying to get the NBA pace and slow the game down. It’s a continuous process,” Lee said. “Offensively, I just wanted to put the ball where it needed to be.”

Board work: In their first two preseason games, the Pistons had been outrebounded by 33 in a win over the San Antonio Spurs and a loss to the Memphis Grizzlies. Casey lamented the effort that the Pistons had in finding an opposing player to block out and in getting to the loose ball. That changed Wednesday, with the Pistons holding a rebounding margin for most of the game, and finishing ahead, 48-47.

Some of the boost came from having Josh Jackson and Frank Jackson in the starting lineup, as they combined for 12 boards between them. Stewart, probably the Pistons’ best rebounder, had eight.

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