Slow start costly for Detroit Pistons in 122-112 loss to Memphis Grizzlies

Detroit Free Press

Through two quarters, Ja Morant let his teammates run the show. After halftime, he took the reins and put the finishing touches on a blowout loss for the Detroit Pistons.

Morant scored 21 of 33 points in the third period, defeating the Pistons, 122-112, at Little Caesars Arena. Morant finished with a double-double, as he also dished out 10 assists. Detroit fell behind by 19 in the first quarter, but cut the deficit to four in the second quarter before falling further behind again. The game was ultimately lost early, as the Grizzlies led during the entire second half after entering halftime with a 12-point advantage. Detroit outscored Memphis 55-53 in the second half.

Saddiq Bey led Detroit with 24 points, seven assists and six rebounds. Bojan Bogdanovic added 18 points, and Killian Hayes (13 points, 3-for-4 from 3) and Jaden Ivey (10 points, five rebounds) also reached double figures in scoring. Michigan State alumnus Jaren Jackson Jr. scored 22 points for the Grizzlies, and Dillon Brooks added 20 points.

OFF THE BENCH:Killian Hayes’ scoring surge for Pistons: What it means and why it matters

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The Pistons made the Grizzlies sweat late, as a floater from Hayes with 2:10 remaining cut the deficit to 11. Hamidou Diallo added a layup with 1:45 to play to cut the deficit to nine points. It’s as close as they got, though, as Ivey and Hayes missed close shots that could’ve turned the game into a free throw battle.

Bey gives scoring punch off bench

Bey has had an up-and-down season. The third-year forward entered Sunday shooting 27.4% from 3 — the worst mark of his short career by a wide margin — and 40.2% overall. It’s the second consecutive year he has opened in a slump. Unlike last year, the Pistons have toyed with his role to try to get him going.

Sunday was Bey’s third straight game off the bench, and his fourth this season. There are multiple reasons why the Pistons are utilizing him off of the bench, and coach Dwane Casey has been quick to state it isn’t a demotion. It makes room for the two-big starting lineup of Isaiah Stewart and Marvin Bagley III and should hypothetically also give Bey an opportunity to receive more touches.

The latter proved true against the Grizzlies, as Bey scored 20 of his 24 points through the first three quarters. It was the first time cracking the 20-point threshold since Nov. 7, and he led the team in shot attempts (16). He brought immediate energy after checking in midway through the first quarter. The Pistons trailed by 19, 34-15, with 3:26 to play in the period. He scored 12 during a 28-13 run that cut the deficit to four with 8:04 to play until halftime.

Bey has acknowledged that coming off the bench has been an adjustment for him, but it worked on Sunday. It wasn’t his most efficient night, but he made up for it by attempting a career-high 12 free throws, making nine, and also dishing out a season-high seven assists.

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