Before Sunday’s game against the Miami Heat, a reporter asked Detroit Pistons coach Dwane Casey how he keeps team morale high as losses pile up. They were in the throes of a 14-game losing streak. One more loss would’ve set a new franchise record.
In a developmental season, the Pistons haven’t been focused on wins and losses. They have one of the NBA’s youngest and most inexperienced teams — particularly after losing Jerami Grant and Kelly Olynyk to injury.
Losses are going to happen. Casey said he’s been in teaching mode, maintaining focus on the big picture. The organization wants to win, but is also being realistic.
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Sunday’s game will give Casey plenty of positive teaching moments. The Pistons played one of their better games this season, and were rewarded with their first win since Nov. 17.
The Pistons (5-24) defeated the Heat, 100-90, behind 26 points from Saddiq Bey. The crowd at Little Caesars Arena gave the home team a standing ovation in the waning seconds of the fourth quarter. Detroit outscored Miami, 54-42, in the second half, and used a decisive 21-7 run in the third quarter to take control.
Hamidou Diallo finished the night with 15 points and seven rebounds, and Isaiah Stewart added seven points and 14 rebounds. Cade Cunningham battled foul trouble and had a quiet scoring night with four points, but dished 10 assists, marking his second-straight game with double-digit assists.
The Heat, similar to the Pistons, were shorthanded, without All-Stars Jimmy Butler (tail bone contusion) and Bam Adebayo (right thumb surgery), as well as Sixth Man of the Year candidate Tyler Herro (right quadriceps contusion). P.J. Tucker left the game during the third quarter due to a knee injury.
Bey continues scoring surge
Bey was mired in a shooting slump through most of the season, but Sunday marked his third-straight game looking more like an improved version of the Bey we saw during his rookie season. He led the Pistons with 26 points, and reached the 20-point threshold for the third straight game after doing so this season just three times before this past week.
In his last three games, Bey has knocked down 25 of his 46 attempts — a red-hot 54.3% — and nine of his 21 3-pointers (42.8%).
Pistons struggle from 3 early, finish strong
Among the many issues ailing the Pistons this season have been their outside shooting. Entering Sunday, they were tied for last in the NBA with a 31.1% clip from 3. The Pistons have been slightly better recently, knocking down 35.6% of their attempts since Nov. 28, good for 17th in that span.
Sunday was a bad flashback, though. The Pistons shot 2-for-19 from behind the arc in the first half, and missed their first of the third quarter, before knocking down six of their next 12 to maintain control of the game.
Bey knocked down a handful of big 3-pointers in the second half. His first, with 7:16 to play in the third, tied the game at 58. It sparked the 21-7 game-clinching run. Frank Jackson also knocked down a 3-pointer during the stretch.
Bey added back-to-back 3-pointers toward with about four minutes to go in the game to extend Detroit’s lead to 94-86. Killian Hayes added another with 2:53 to go to stretch the lead to 11.
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