Washington, D.C. — The Pistons didn’t waste time trying to get Marvin Bagley III some playing time. After coming to the Pistons last week in a deal at the trade deadline, Bagley made his debut on Monday night against the Washington Wizards.
Bagley played with the second unit and had a good first game, but the Pistons couldn’t rally in the fourth quarter, falling to the Wizards, 103-94 at Capital One Arena.
The Pistons (12-45) have lost eight straight games and 12 of their last 13 games, and they’ll head into the All-Star break after Wednesday’s matchup at Boston.
The losing streak is frustrating, but coach Dwane Casey is trying to make sure that it doesn’t build up and carry over into the next game. With the All-Star break approaching, it’ll be a time to flush much of what they’ve gone through in this string of games.
“We should be frustrated with losing and putting ourselves in this position. Frustration, but not don’t lose hope. I’ve been around teams and I’ll never forget our championship team (in Dallas) lost like seven or eight in a row, but we didn’t lose hope and we stayed together,” Casey said. “That was an older team, and the hardest thing with a young team is not to lose sight of the big picture.
“I haven’t done that. I get upset and mad when we lose because we’re all competitors, but we have to look ourselves in the mirror to see why are we putting ourselves into this turnover here, not executing here, not spacing properly here and doing the little things.”
Bagley finished with 10 points and eight rebounds in 21 minutes and Saddiq Bey led the Pistons with 24 points, five rebounds and five assists. Jerami Grant had 14 points, Cade Cunningham 12 points, four rebounds and four assists and Isaiah Stewart 11 points and nine rebounds.
After a hook shot by Bagley, the Wizards (26-30) led, 78-76, with 2:00 remaining. Washington finished the third quarter with a 9-2 run, including seven points by Kyle Kuzma (23 points and seven rebounds), and pushed the lead to 87-78.
Bagley made two of four free throws early in the fourth, to get within 88-81, and that started a 9-2 spurt, with drives by Rodney McGruder and Cory Joseph and a 3-pointer by Bey, cutting the deficit to 90-88 with 6:19 left.
Bagley showed his inside game near the basket, and he was effective, though he finished 4-of-10 from the field and just 2-of-6 on free throws.
“I liked him. He’s long and his timing’s off a little bit, understandably. He has an advantage in the post with his length and his ability to score around the basket,” Casey said. “I really liked that and the first play down the floor, he took a charge — and I love that. He’s a little rusty, but I like the way he plays.”
The Pistons couldn’t get stops down the stretch and the Wizards extended the lead with nine straight points. Raul Neto scored on two drives inside, Deni Avdija (12 points and 15 rebounds) scored a jumper and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (16 points) hit a 3-pointer, as the lead ballooned to 99-88 with 2:32 remaining.
The Wizards didn’t relent the rest of the way and the Pistons scored just two baskets more baskets, on 3-pointers by Joseph and Grant.
The Pistons trailed by 12 in the second quarter, but they put together an 8-0 rally, with a three-point play by Stewart and a 3-pointer from Grant and a pair of free throws from Bey to get within 42-8. Thomas Bryant’s dunk ended the run, but Cunningham scored on a drive.
Bagley will take time to get fully integrated into the lineup, but the early results are encouraging.
“We’re excited to have him. It’s just more reps and practice, workouts or in games and just trying to get acclimated,” Bey said. “Once he gets comfortable, I think he definitely will be a force for us on the rim and with his length.”
Cunningham was in foul trouble for most of the game, after getting his second at the 4:36 mark of the first quarter. He got his third midway through the second period and his fourth in the first minute of the fourth quarter.
He would have had his fifth foul with 9:31 left in the third quarter, but Casey challenged the call of offensive foul and it was overturned. Cunningham made the two free throws and the Pistons cut the lead to 59-58, but Kuzma, who had 17 points in the third quarter, got on a hot streak. He had eight of the Wizards’ 11 points during that stretch, and his floater and fadeaway jumper gave them a 63-58 lead, before his final stretch to end the period.
Bey had a hot start to open the game, scoring 10 of the Pistons’ first 12 points, with a three-point play and a 3-pointer. After a three-point play by Grant, the game was tied at 16.