Detroit Pistons suffer bizarre passing woes vs. Wizards. The road is about to get tougher

Detroit Free Press

WASHINGTON — Thirteen turnovers is an acceptable number for an NBA team during a game. For the Detroit Pistons on Tuesday, their 13 turnovers were part of a larger story of their offensive woes.

The Pistons produced just 12 assists — a season low — on 36 made baskets during a 120-99 road smackdown suffered to the Washington Wizards. Their success taking care of the ball was overshadowed, rightfully, by their inability to move it. They produced three assists in the second half, a major reason why the Wizards outscored them 64-50 during the final two periods. With a stagnant offense, the Pistons didn’t have enough firepower to compete, losing for the 15th straight time in Washington.

“Our decision-making wasn’t the best today, but it’s the fourth game in,” point guard Cory Joseph said after the game. “Don’t want to make a lot of excuses obviously, but still a lot of time this season. We’ve gotta fix things. There’s a sense of urgency to fix things pretty quickly. Today was one of those things where there’s a mixture of both. We made some passes to guys who were open and didn’t make shots, and also just didn’t see sometimes and made the wrong decision at times.”

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Passing struggles were uncharacteristic. In the Pistons’ three previous games, they dished 83 assists and committed 42 turnovers. That includes a 31-assist performance in their opening night victory over the Orlando Magic. Tuesday was the first time this season they tallied more turnovers than assists.

Their three young guards — Cade Cunningham, Jaden Ivey and Killian Hayes — didn’t move the ball as well as they had previously. Hayes particularly struggled, finishing with zero assists and four turnovers in 17 minutes. Cunningham and Ivey had seven assists combined, and Cunningham also had three turnovers. Coach Dwane Casey said Hayes, and Detroit in general, pressed as the game went on. The team needed to slow down and find good shots as the game escaped in the second half, but was out of sync.

Perhaps it’s inherent to a team as young as the Pistons that their offense will fail to establish a rhythm on some nights. Hayes and Cunningham are both 21, and Ivey is 20 and a rookie. There will be nights where they’re outplayed by veteran backcourts, as they were Tuesday. Bradley Beal finished with just 13 points in limited minutes, but dished six assists and turning the ball over twice. Grand Rapids native Monte Morris had six assists with zero turnovers.

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Cunningham and Hayes generally prefer to get the offense going before looking for their own shots, and Ivey’s passing has been a pleasant surprise this season. Perhaps Tuesday will prove to be an aberration, and the Pistons have plenty of teaching points based on the game.

“We try to force things, if things are not going your way and you try to press too hard,” Casey said after the game. “I thought Killian Hayes was pressing way too hard. I was trying to get him to relax, just pressing. There’s going to be nights you may just be a passer, you may be a defender, rebounder. Something. Bring something that contributes to winning other than just scoring. Hats off to Washington, they came out with the right approach in the second half and we didn’t respond.”

The Pistons are off to a rocky start at 1-3. Young teams are going to lose games, but it could be a while before this one picks up its next win. With two games against the Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks each in the next few weeks, in addition to games against the Golden State Warriors, Toronto Raptors, Los Angeles Clippers, Cleveland Cavaliers and New York Knicks. A home game against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Nov. 7 could be their lone reprieve for a while, but the Thunder (1-3) could also win that game.

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Casey is staying the course with his young guards in a rebuilding season, and with the margin already as thin as it is, can’t afford to have them fall short like did vs. the Wizards.

“As a rebuild, restore, you have to let young players go through mistakes,” Casey said. “That’s the only way they’re going to learn. They’re not going to learn sitting there next to me.”

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