Orlando — Before he started his postgame media comments, Pistons center Isaiah Stewart looked down at the stat sheet.
“51? That’s tough,” Stewart said, still shaking his head in disbelief.
Saddiq Bey had just dropped 51 points in the win over the Orlando Magic on Thursday night, and it could have been more.
Maybe 60. Maybe 65. Maybe on another day, but Bey did exactly what he’s done for most of his career — he stayed himself. That means not jacking up ill-advised shots or doing things that were outside of the team concept.
“I didn’t come into the game saying this is what I was going to do. When you catch a rhythm and you’re in the zone, you still want to win the game,” Bey said, still drenched from his teammates pouring water on him in the postgame celebration. “My teammates did a great job of finding me and just encouraging me to still be aggressive. That’s the mentality I had, to be aggressive.”
What sticks out about Bey’s career-high of 51 points, including 10 3-pointers, is that he didn’t seem to be hogging the ball, or even trying to do too much. Every shot felt very much in rhythm, like a shot coach Dwane Casey would want him to take on the first possession of the first quarter or in the waning seconds of a close game.
More than that, Bey was looking to get his teammates involved, even after he had 21 points in the first quarter and 30 points by halftime.
“There’s nothing about Saddiq Bey that’s selfish,” Casey said. “I mean, he’s a very team guy first.”
Bey is a team guy, but his 51-point performance is an individual achievement that will go down in the annals of Pistons lore. There was Blake Griffin’s 50-point masterpiece in 2018 during his All-NBA season. Before that, it was Rip Hamilton’s 51 points in December 2006. Bey wasn’t far off the franchise record of 57 points, set by Jerry Stackhouse in 2001.
That’s a very realistic number for Bey to reach. In only his second season, he’s putting everyone on notice that he’s more than a capable scorer. Though the Pistons were without their two leading scorers, Jerami Grant and Cade Cunningham, Bey’s production didn’t seem to be forced. He was an efficient 17-of-27 (63%) from the field and 10-of-14 (71%) on 3-pointers.
That’s a far cry from his previous few games, when Bey had been struggling from the field, including going 4-of-12 in Tuesday’s loss at Miami, which fueled him to try to have a better stretch to end the season.
He did that.
“I came in and saying that I have to lock in and try to finish the season out strong,” Bey said. “I kind of had a reality check after the loss to Miami, so I came to the hotel in Orlando saying I had to refocus and try to finish up this road trip strong. That was my mentality coming in.”
Keep it simple
Now that he’s made a big statement, Bey is sure to get some extra attention from defenses, even after Cunningham and Grant return to the lineup.
Maybe he should have been there all along.
The 51-point performance won’t go to his head, though, because of he maintains the same approach to every game, regardless of the opponent.
“I would say the simplistic mentality that I have will help through that scouting report or just whatever coming into the game. I come in really simplistic saying just to play hard, play with my team, try to win, play aggressive and just focus on playing hard,” Bey said. “I don’t try to come in with the mentality of how much I’m getting tonight or tomorrow, but it’s just being in the present and trying to get a win.
“I’m just learning how to reset every day, and learning how to reset my mind mentally is going to help me to be able to have better performances down the stretch.”
Pistons at Cavaliers
► Tipoff: 8 p.m. Saturday, Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, Cleveland
► TV/radio: BSD-Extra/950
► Outlook: The Cavaliers look to be locked into a playoff spot after a big turnaround season. It’s a big matchup for the NBA Rookie of the Year race with the Cavs’ Evan Mobley, but Cade Cunningham (non-COVID illness) has missed the last two games.