As the preseason is winding down, the Pistons are resting some of their starters and getting set for the start of the regular season next Wednesday at Indiana.
They played the first road exhibition game without Blake Griffin (hamstring soreness), Andre Drummond (rest) and Markieff Morris (illness), which shuffled the starting lineup, pushing Luke Kennard and Thon Maker into the first five.
The result was a 106-86 road loss to the Philadelphia 76ers on Tuesday night at Wells Fargo Center. After taking an 8-6 lead in the first quarter, the Pistons never regained the advantage. Christian Wood finished with 19 points and 10 rebounds in 23 minutes, Tony Snell 17 points and Luke Kennard 11 points for the Pistons (2-2).
Here are some observations from the fourth preseason game:
Wood continued his efficient preseason, padding the stat sheet with 19 points, 10 rebounds and two assists in 23 minutes. He’s had some of the best statistical production during the exhibitions and has made a good case for making the final roster.
He had some good highlights, including a coast-to-coast dunk and a leaning jumper after being fouled.
More than that, though, Wood made things look easy and his activity around the rim seems worthy of a roster spot. Coach Dwane Casey has said he wants Wood to shoot more, especially on open shots, without worrying about whether he misses.
The idea is that he’s still fighting for the final roster spot, but after seeing what he’s done in the preseason, saying he needs to do more seems like nitpicking.
With Drummond out, Thon Maker was the starting center, getting a tough matchup against the 76ers’ Joel Embiid, who scored their first six points. Maker gives up a significant weight advantage, but he did a good job after the initial flurry of getting rebounds and getting in position on defense. Embiid gives most centers in the league fits inside, but he was hitting from the perimeter, which makes guarding him more difficult.
Maker was more active on the boards and did things other than score, which can buy him some more minutes in the regular season.
With much of the scoring punch out of the starting lineup, Tony Snell picked up the pace, with a nice start to the third quarter, including a 3-pointer and a three-point play. He took a few more shots than normal because of the missing starters and was 6-of-11 from the field.
He played under control and showed he can shoulder a bigger piece of the scoring load but without Griffin and Drummond, there was plenty missing from the offensive punch.
The Pistons’ transition offense was very good in the first half, with some easy baskets off turnovers. Derrick Rose was one of the catalysts, as were Reggie Jackson and Bruce Brown.
They were efficient in getting a numbers advantage and using the rush to get within a few points in the first half, but they never got over the hump to take a big lead. It had to compensate for the 3-point shooting, at which the Pistons struggled, shooting just 23 percent (6-of-26).
The guards struggled, with Jackson (1-of-8), Brown (3-of-9), Rose (2-of-10) and Tim Frazier (1-of-5) combining to go just 7-of-32 from the field. They were just 0-of-2 on 3-pointers and there wasn’t much spark coming from the backcourt group.
It’ll be a bigger focus area when the starters are all together if the trend continues, but given the missing pieces, the struggles were understandable.
Pistons at Hornets
Tip-off: 7 p.m. Wednesday, Spectrum Center, Charlotte, N.C.
Outlook: The Pistons finish the preseason on a back-to-back, with Blake Griffin (hamstring soreness) likely missing his third straight game. Markieff Morris (illness) missed Tuesday’s game but Andre Drummond is likely to return.