There’s one constant with bad basketball teams.
No matter how they’ve played recently, some nights, they surprise you.
That’s really the best way to describe the Detroit Pistons overtime win over the Dallas Mavericks on Thursday. Killian Hayes had one of his best games ever as the Pistons pulled out a rare win against a Western Conference contender.
However, the other thing about bad teams is they’re predictable. So, it wasn’t much of a surprise to see the inconsistent Pistons follow that triumphant win with a buzzkill loss, 122-112 to Ja Morant and the Memphis Grizzlies on Sunday night.
The game was not as close as the final score indicates, and it felt like a bad one from the get go as Memphis jumped out to a quick 7-0 lead.
Detroit fell behind by 10 soon after and, while they rallied to within single digits late in the game, Memphis led this by double-figures for 90% of the second half.
The Grizzlies are big, fast and athletic, a deep and relentless group that gives you hell on both ends of the court. It’s simply a bad matchup for the Pistons, which was clear last season as they lost 118-88 and 132-107 to Memphis.
But the Pistons hung tight by containing Ja Morant… for a bit.
Morant scored just seven points in the first half, running into double teams and congestion in the paint with every drive. Credit Killian Hayes for some of that, he had some really nice plays on Ja defensively:
But Morant is like a storm, you can do everything to prepare, but eventually, he arrives. That came in the third as he poured in 21 points as the Grizzlies pushed their lead from 12 points to 18 points and eventually as many as 22 early in the fourth.
Detroit struggled with every other Memphis starter, too:
Dillon Brooks: 22 points
Brandon Clarke: 14 points
Jaren Jackson Jr: 22 points
John Konchar: 11 points
The bench was the bright spot for the Pistons. Saddiq Bey led the way with 24 points, 5 rebounds and 7 assists, hitting 9 of 12 from the free throw line. He looked much better than he has recently, but still missed five of six from three.
The rest of the reserves were solid, combining for 55 points. The +/- stats for the bench look pretty good… especially compared to the starters.
Nobody in the starting lineup was particularly good. Hayes was probably the best, giving Morant some issue while knocking down three triples to finish with 33 points and 10 assists.
Jaden Ivey was bad. He’s close with Morant, so I’m sure he saw this game as a measuring stick for him. He shot 2-of-9, scoring 10 points to go with 5 rebounds, 3 assists and a game-high 4 turnovers — and was an ugly minus-23.
Bojan Bogdanovic was super efficient offensively, scoring 18 points on just 8 attempts, but he too was a net-negative, finishing minus-29.
Sometimes, the +/- matches the eye test. Sometimes, it does not. Tonight, it did.
Detroit did rally a bit late, as a Hamidou Diallo layup cut it to 119-110 with just under 2:00 to go, but it was too little too late as Memphis pulled away.