Detroit Pistons’ losses fueled by being ‘fragile,’ Jerami Grant’s rough nights

Detroit Free Press

It’s become a familiar scene for the Detroit Pistons this season. Shots don’t fall in the early going, the offense gets out of sync and the game gets away from them.

They followed up their best offensive performance of the season vs. the Toronto Raptors with another of those “Here we go again” nights Monday vs. the Sacramento Kings. They scored just 12 points in the first quarter and trailed by double digits throughout the last three quarters.

“That’s where we were a little fragile. Twenty-nine other teams would have that issue if they don’t see the ball going in,” said coach Dwane Casey, whose team continues a five-game homestand Wednesday against Indiana. “Missing layups, missing tip-ins, those types of things. Yes, the fragile part is there. … Most teams in this league are fragile when they don’t see the shots go in but the good teams find ways to bounce back from missed shots and mistakes and play through it.”

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The league’s worst shooting team needed a 37-point fourth quarter just to bump their shooting percentage above 40% for the game. Saddiq Bey and Cade Cunningham were the only double-figure scorers.

Against the Raptors, the Pistons shot 54.4% and had seven double-digit scorers.

“We feel like we have times and stretches in some of our games where we’re playing really well,” reserve wing Josh Jackson said. “We try to just pinpoint those things and those feelings we had in moments where we are playing well and repeat them every game. That’s all we’re really trying to do — find our groove, find our swag and be able to come in and repeat some things every game.”

There’s a strong correlation between Jerami Grant’s output and his team’s performance. Grant is averaging 27 points on 49.1% shooting and 4.3 assists in the team’s three victories. He’s averaging 14.9 points on 37.5% shooting and 1.9 assists in the losses.

Grant was held to seven points by the Kings, who sent help when he entered the lane and forced him to be a jump shooter. Casey would like to see his top offensive threat look for the open man more in those situations.

Kelly Olynyk hard to replace

Olynyk wasn’t off to a particularly strong start, as the Pistons top free agent acquisition, but the second unit revolved around his offensive prowess. He was averaging 12.5 points and 2.3 assists when he suffered a Grade 2 MCL sprain Wednesday in Houston. He’s out at least six weeks.

Among other things, Olynyk provides a 3-point threat that the Pistons lacked from their centers last season.

“When Kelly’s just standing in the corner, just him being there spaces the floor so much more,” Jackson said. “It opens some lanes for everybody else. He moves without the ball and he sets really good screens. We miss him a lot.”

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Trey Lyles, a natural power forward, is seeing some minutes behind Isaiah Stewart. Rookie Luka Garza is also getting an opportunity. He played 17 minutes Monday and contributed five points and seven rebounds.

“Both guys are capable of coming in and doing some of the things (Olynyk) does,” Casey said. “They’re not going to completely replace him because of the experience factor and his size.”

Myles Turner turning away shots

The Pacers are off to a 6-9 start under Rick Carlisle in his second stint as their head coach. They do lead the league in shot-blocking thanks to Myles Turner, who is averaging a league-high 3.3 per game.

The Pistons will have to make note of his presence when entering the lane.

“You want to collapse the defense but you want to look at your kickouts — on time, on target — make sure our shooters get a good pass,” Casey said. “Our rim decisions have to be pristine all night.”

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