Hornets expose Pistons’ defensive issues, losing streak at seven games

Detroit News

Detroit — The Charlotte Hornets have had their way with the Pistons over the past few years. The first meeting this season was a 140-111 blowout last month.

In the head-to-head series, they’ve won 14 straight games, dating back to October 2017.

Make it 15.

The Hornets took advantage of the Pistons’ miscues and surged in the middle two quarters, buzzing to a 141-119 victory on Friday night at Little Caesars Arena.

It’s the Pistons’ seventh consecutive loss and 11th in their last 12 games.

BOX SCORE: Hornets 141, Pistons 119

Saddiq Bey finished with 25 points, Hamidou Diallo 16 points and seven rebounds and Isaiah Stewart 15 points and 12 rebounds. Jerami Grant added 15 points and Killian Hayes 11 points and a career-high 12 assists for the Pistons (12-44), who next have a two-game road trip facing the Washington Wizards on Monday and the Boston Celtics on Wednesday.

The Hornets (29-28) scored 79 points in the first half, the most points the Pistons have allowed in any half this season. They were able to expose the Pistons’ defensive issues, getting to the rim and converting their 3-pointers.

“If you give up 36 and 43 points (in the first two quarters), that’s not a lot of defense in that situation, and that’s what we’re going to get back to,” coach Dwane Casey said. “We’ve got to get back to playing some semblance of defense, and if you can’t guard your position, we’ve got to find somebody that can.

“We’re so enamored with making shots — which we have to do — but we’re carrying those missed shots down to the other end and not defending. With (the Hornets), if you get up and down, they’re going to win that game, but it comes down to defense.”

Bey got off to a good start, with six of the Pistons’ first eight points, and Stewart was active early, with six points in the first six-plus minutes, and the Pistons led, 15-14, at the 7:45 mark.

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The Hornets got going behind a basket from Terry Rozier (25 points, nine rebounds and 11 assists) and a dunk and 3-pointer from Miles Bridges (25 points). By the end of the quarter, Charlotte surged ahead, with a 36-29 lead, behind a 10-4 run to finish the period.

In the second quarter, Bey had a pair of free throws and a 3-pointer to get within 36-34 at the 10:59 mark, but the Hornets reeled off a 12-0 run, with a dunk and 3-pointer from P.J. Washington (13 points).

LaMelo Ball was the star of the night, getting started with a 3-pointer, which ignited another Hornets rally. Rozier followed Ball’s 3-pointer with 11 straight Charlotte points, and the run was 17-0, for a 69-45 lead with 3:52 left in the half.

Cade Cunningham returned to the lineup after missing five straight games because of a hip pointer. He was on a minutes restriction and finished with 12 points and five rebounds in 22 minutes.

Cunningham had a jumper and a putback, but every time the Pistons made a run, the Hornets had an answer. The lead was up to 79-55 at halftime, and Charlotte kept pushing in the third quarter.

The Pistons got a run with a basket and a 3-pointer by Grant, starting an 8-0 run, but Ball answered with a pair of 3-pointers, on his way to 31 points, five rebounds and 12 assists. Entering the fourth quarter, the Hornets’ lead was 110-87, and they cruised from there.

The Pistons had 18 turnovers, which the Hornets turned into easy baskets with their athleticism and inside game.

“Some of those live-ball turnovers in the first quarter were some of those, and those are hard to get back on, especially against an athletic team who wants to play up and down,” Casey said. “I thought we tightened it up somewhat in the second half, but still the game was lost in the first two quarters.”

Rod.Beard@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @detnewsRodBeard

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