This youthful Pistons roster has shown an ability to gain leads throughout the early stages of this season, but maintaining those leads and closing games has been difficult.
That was the case on Sunday as Detroit held a slim lead for the majority of the game until the Sacramento Kings put together a string of possessions in the fourth quarter, powered by offensive rebounds, to regain the lead when it mattered most.
Two offensive rebounds by Damontas Sabonis afforded the Kings two second-chance opportunities late in the fourth quarter that ultimately gave them their first lead of the fourth quarter. Kevin Huerter scored 13 in the fourth quarter, the most pressing of which was a corner 3-pointer to give the Kings a four-point lead with 1:29 remaining.
The Pistons couldn’t counter and were outscored 11-2 in the final two minutes, which led to a 137-129 loss inside Arco Arena, their seventh consecutive defeat. Detroit remains winless on the road with 10 straight losses in opposing arenas.
“Tonight, it was our defensive rebounding,” Pistons coach Dwane Casey said. “There was a stretch there where we gave up two or three (defensive rebounds) in one possession and that’s huge, especially late in the game. We had done a decent job throughout the game, but then in crunch time we gotta make sure we find bodies, get loose balls and get stops.”
All five of the Kings’ starting five totaled double digits in scoring, led by De’Aaron Fox, who had 33 points and seven assists. Harrison Barnes had 27 points and nine rebounds. Huerter added 24 points, five rebounds and five assists.
Jaden Ivey is getting first-hand experience in leading the Pistons offense due to the deterioration of the team’s starting lineup. Without Cade Cunningham, Saddiq Bey and Isaiah Stewart available, Ivey led Detroit with 24 points, four rebounds, three assists and five fouls.
Bojan Bogdanovic was Ivey’s co-star, finishing with 21 points on 8-of-12 shooting. The eight-year veteran connected on several tough shots, including a 3-pointer over Harrison Barnes toward the end of the shot clock in the third quarter.
Marvin Bagley III returned to Sacramento, where he was selected with the No. 2 overall pick in 2018, for the first time since the Pistons acquired him in a trade in February. Despite another game riddled by foul trouble and the constant boos from Kings fans, Bagley managed to put together a solid game with 15 points and six rebounds.
Sunday’s game also marked a milestone for Casey, who coached in his 1,000th career game.
The Pistons’ bench scored 55 points, led by Alec Burks’ 16 points. Jalen Duren had 12 points and eight rebounds. His five offensive boards usually resulted in a two-handed dunk without much opposition. The second unit had several worthy performances. Kevin Knox had his best performance as a Piston with 11 points and four rebounds. Cory Joseph offered some much-needed relief while Ivey (five fouls) was in foul trouble. He totaled 12 points and five assists in his first game back from a hip injury.
“We showed toughness,” Joseph said. “Obviously, we didn’t get the job done, which is the main goal, but we showed scrappiness, toughness. We had opportunities at times to extend the lead or hold onto it. We just made too many mistakes mentally. We played hard though, but at a certain time you just can’t hang your hat on playing hard.”
Saddiq Bey, who suffered his turned right ankle in Friday’s loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, was upgraded to questionable prior to the game and participated in pregame workouts, but did not play on Sunday. Isaiah Livers started in Bey’s place. He scored five points.
The first quarter was an offensive shootout as both teams shot over 60% from the field, but Sacramento took an early 38-33 lead. The efficient shooting continued into the second quarter when the Pistons went on a 16-6 run and took a 70-68 lead going into the half.
The third quarter continued to be a back-and-forth affair that ended with a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by Terance Davis III.
Detroit entered the game shooting 32% as a team on 3-pointers, ranking last in the league, and finished 15-of-29 (51%) from the 3-point line.
“They’re playing their hearts out,” Casey said. “I see growth. I see improvement in a lot of different areas, but we gotta close the deal down the stretch.”
The Pistons are 0-3 in the first half of their west coast swing and will look for their first win on the road on Tuesday against the Denver Nuggets.