The Detroit Pistons have faced a lot of adversity since mid-November. They suffered a 14-game losing streak, lost their best player in Jerami Grant to a thumb injury and then saw most of their rotation — and several staff members — enter the NBA’s health and safety protocols following a COVID-19 outbreak.
So the last 10 seconds of Saturday’s home game against the San Antonio Spurs will go down as one of the most joyous moments of the season. Down two points in overtime, Derrick Walton Jr. threaded a pass through the legs of Spurs center Jakob Poeltl and into the hands of Saddiq Bey, who released a 3-point shot with two Spurs defenders draped on top of him.
The 3 splashed through the net with 1.9 seconds left, and the Pistons won a close game against a much-healthier Spurs team. Bey’s 3 gave the Pistons a close 117-116 win, snapped a four-game skid and gave Detroit just its second win since Nov. 17.
Hamidou Diallo had his third consecutive big scoring night, leading all players with 34 points — one point short of his career high — 13 rebounds and five steals. On Sunday and Wednesday, he tallied 28 and 31 points, respectively. Bey finished with 21 points and a career-high 17 rebounds, and Luka Garza had 20 points and 14 rebounds.
Two of Detroit’s Motor City Cruise call-ups stepped up in the winning effort. Cassius Stanley scored a career-high 19 points, and Walton, a Detroit native and Michigan alum, had 11 points, six rebounds, six assists and four steals.
The Pistons trailed the Spurs by 17 points with 7:42 left in the second quarter, but used a 22-10 run to cut the deficit to 59-52 at halftime. They then took control of the game in the third quarter, using a 21-12 run, capped by a three-point play by Bey, to take a two-point lead with just under five minutes to play. Detroit led by four entering the fourth quarter, but the Spurs tied the game at 105 with 21 seconds left after Keldon Johnson split a trip to the line.
Stanley seizes the moment
During practice earlier this week, coach Dwane Casey reminded his roster of mostly G League players that this moment is fleeting for them, and they should play hard and take advantage. It has been an unprecedented month for the NBA, with more than 100 G League call-ups leaguewide as teams manage COVID-19 outbreaks.
Stanley had the best performance of any G League player the Pistons have called up. His 19 points crushed his previous career high of nine, which he set against the Spurs in San Antonio last Sunday. The former Duke wing made six of his eight attempts and three of four 3-pointers. He knocked down a pair of free throws with 1:14 to play to give the Pistons a 103-101 lead.
Stanley played a single season at Duke from 2019-20, averaged 12.6 points and 4.5 rebounds as a freshman and was drafted 54th overall by the Indiana Pacers, with whom he inked a two-way contract. He signed with the Pistons this past offseason, and then signed with the Motor City Cruise after the parent franchise waived him. In 12 games with the Cruise this season, he averaged 12.7 points on 41.6% overall shooting and 26.7% shooting from 3.
Pistons set franchise record with new players
Toward the end of the first quarter, Micah Potter and Jaysean Paige made their debuts for the Pistons after signing 10-day contracts earlier in the week. They made history by becoming the 23rd and 24th players to play a game for Detroit this season, breaking the previous record of 22.
It highlights just how crazy the last 10 days or so have been for the Pistons. They signed eight G League players to 10-day contracts, with eight members of their main roster entering health and safety protocols. All eight G Leaguers appeared in at least one game.
Relief could come for the Pistons soon, however. Six players — Cade Cunningham, Killian Hayes, Saben Lee, Rodney McGruder, Trey Lyles and Josh Jackson—exited protocols Friday evening and could return to the rotation for Monday’s road game against the Milwaukee Bucks.
Isaiah Stewart and Cory Joseph are still in protocols. Joseph appeared to exit protocols on Friday, but was listed again on the injury report on Saturday.
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