The Detroit Pistons fought hard, played with great intensity on the defensive end, but ultimately couldn’t keep it together for all 48 minutes, eventually falling to the Chicago Bulls 94-88.
The Pistons led for most of the game and had leads of 9 and 7 at various points, but the offense was frigid for both teams all night. It seemed, though, that the Pistons would have just enough behind a team-wide defensive effort that saw them frustrate high-level scorers like DeMar DeRozan, Nikola Vucevic and Zach LaVine.
A Trey Lyles dunk off of a nice Kelly Olynyk dump off put the Pistons up 82-78 with 7:17 to go in the game. And then it all just went terribly wrong.
Josh Jackson made ill-advised passes and shots, nobody could hit from the perimeter, and Jerami Grant couldn’t make it happen when it was all put on his shoulders.
The Pistons didn’t score another basket until the 1:28 mark on a turnaround jumper from Grant that brought Detroit back within two. But they couldn’t muster up the offense to turn the corner.
But let’s take a step back and acknowledge the good of this game. Saddiq Bey was extremely good against the Bulls, especially in how he scored his buckets. A 3-point specialist last year, Bey scored all over the floor against Chicago. He was hitting step-back jumpers, scoring from the post, driving to the basket, finding cutters.
You’d like to see him not hoist 15 shots to get 13 points, but it seems like there are some real growth opportunities in his offense and it’s worth investing in him probing when and when not to try out his new bag of tricks.
Also good was Isaiah Stewart. After a rough preseason where he was still shaking off the rust of an offseason injury, Stewart was extremely strong against Vucevic. Beef Stew scored 12 points on 6-of-9 shooting and added eight rebounds. Vuc, meanwhile, scored 15 points but needed 21 shots to get them.
Jerami Grant had a strong game as well, leading the Pistons with 24 points and scoring from deep (three 3s) and continuing to slither his way into the lane for tough looks at the rim. He lost it a bit when the team’s offense totally wiped out in the second half, but it was good to see him continue his strong play from last season.
OK, now for the bad. The guard play was not good. Particularly the point guard play, and particularly Killian Hayes. The second-year player had zero points on six shots and didn’t have much of a role on the floor if the first action didn’t present a scoring or assist opportunity. Hayes was aggressive to the rim, which is nice as far as that goes, but he still couldn’t convert inside nor hit his shots from the perimeter.
And once he got rid of the rock, he just stood at the perimeter while the rest of the roster was figuring things out and his man paid minimal attention to him. Unfortunately, backup Cory Joseph wasn’t much better. He struggled with his shot and with getting an offensive rhythm going.
And when your point guards are crapping the bed, that tends to lead to Josh Jackson forcing the issue, which he did tonight, particularly in the fourth quarter.
It made one think how much smoother it might all look with rookie Cade Cunningham out on the floor, but we’re not there yet.
The offense in general was pretty dreadful as Detroit shot just 40% from the floor and 21.4% from deep. You have to imagine players like Joseph, Bey, Olynyk and Jackson will generally be reliable from 3 instead of their collective 2-of-17 showing tonight.
A few more threes and this level of defense, and Detroit has the makings of an improved team.
As it stands, it was a hard-fought game where the young players showed you a lot and in the end the Pistons still lost. Sounds a lot like last year, doesn’t it?