Ja Morant had seven points at halftime. He scored eight in the first three minutes of the third quarter to put the Detroit Pistons away early.
The Pistons were outscored, 37-25, in the third quarter against the Memphis Grizzlies and trailed by 20 points at the end of the period. A late rally that cut the deficit to 11 came several minutes too late, and the Pistons suffered their second straight road loss, falling to the Grizzlies, 114-103, on Friday.
Detroit struggled offensively, shooting 40% overall, 31.4% from 3 and committing 19 turnovers.
Bojan Bogdanovic led the Pistons with 19 points, Marvin Bagley III had 14 points, nine rebounds and four blocks and Kevin Knox and Isaiah Stewart each scored 13 points. Rookie Jalen Duren earned his first career start and finished with 10 points and 12 rebounds in 27 minutes for his second straight double-double. Bagley was moved to the bench.
Michigan State alumnus Jaren Jackson Jr. led all scorers with 20 points and four blocks. Morant had a 15-point, 12-assist double-double.
Duren records first start, Bagley thrives off bench
Dwane Casey made a surprise change to his starting lineup, replacing Bagley — who started Detroit’s previous 13 games — with Duren, who played in front of a friendly crowd as a former Memphis Tigers standout. It’s unclear if the move was matchup-based or if it will last for an extended period, but Casey tries to avoid frequently moving players between the first and second units.
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Bagley came off of the bench in his season debut on Nov. 12, but had started every game since before Friday. He reached double figures in scoring in nine of his first 11 games, but only reached single digits in his previous three. His four-point, four-rebound outing against the Miami Heat on Tuesday and zero-point, two-rebound against the Pelicans Wednesday were two of his worst performances of the season.
The move to the bench appeared to spark something in Bagleyl he delivered his best offensive performance in a week and one of his better defensive performances this season. He checked in with Saddiq Bey midway through the first period, and shut down a pair of Grizzlies shot attempts shortly after checking in. He got his body into Steven Adams and bothered him into missing a layup attempt, and then immediately rose to block another layup attempt by Santi Aldama.
Bagley was aggressive on offense and maintained his energy level all night. He closed the first quarter with a reverse dunk after getting his body into Aldama to create space, and then driving past Aldama on the following possession for a layup through contact. His final play of the first period was a block on Tyus Jones’ floater attempt with 32 seconds remaining. Before checking out midway through the second quarter, he scored two more buckets — a midrange jumper, and a transition layup before Memphis’ defense settled — and blocked a layup attempt by Jackson.
Duren had a solid night as well. He had some exciting plays, including thunderous dunks in the second and fourth quarters off of a lob from Hayes and a bounce pass from Jaden Ivey. But he also found himself defending Morant on several possessions after switches, and those possessions went poorly.
Knox heats up in second quarter
It had been a quiet two weeks for Knox, who reached double figures in three consecutive games in late November as the Pistons battled injuries. Friday was his first time reaching double digits since his season-high 21 points against the Utah Jazz on Nov. 23. Knox did most of his damage with 13 second-quarter points.
After making a pair of free throws toward the end of the first quarter, Knox went a perfect 4-for-4 in the second, including three 3-pointers. His third 3 tied the game at 40 with 8:19 before halftime, and he knocked down a turnaround jumper about a minute later to give Detroit its first and only lead of the night. His performance was a reminder that he can score in a hurry, even though he’s struggled to make shots consistently this season.
Contact Omari Sankofa II at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @omarisankofa.