Shorthanded Pistons dealt third straight setback, lose 128-120 to Hawks
With Blake Griffin and Derrick Rose missing the middle game a stretch of three games in four nights for the Pistons, it was a good opportunity for coach Dwane Casey to work on some different lineup variations. That included giving the young players an extended look to see how they’d fare with extended minutes.
It also meant getting to see more from rookies Killian Hayes, Saddiq Bey and Isaiah Stewart.
The shorthanded Pistons stayed close in the first half, but couldn’t stop the Atlanta Hawks, who took a 128-120 victory on Monday night at State Farm Arena.
Bey got a surprise start and Stewart was energetic and active in his longest appearance of the season. Hayes, tasked with defending the Hawks’ Trae Young.
Hayes finished with a season-best 10 points and eight assists, Bey added 10 points and seven rebounds Stewart a workmanlike two points and eight rebounds in 14 minutes. Josh Jackson and Jerami Grant led with the Pistons (0-3) with 27 points each.
“We're competing to win; we're not just looking guys. I was really proud of the way the guys competed and most of all we took care of the basketball and gave ourselves a chance,” Casey said. “I love the compete level. I told them if we compete at that level each and every night. we're going to win some basketball games.”
Lacking their two main scorers, the Pistons had to find other sources for scoring, and leaned on Jackson, who has been one of the more efficient scorers off the bench. Jackson got his first start of the season and had good production: 11-of-19 from the field and 3-of-7 on 3-pointers.
The Hawks (3-0) looked to have the game in hand a few minutes into the fourth quarter, after a 15-4 run, with John Collins scoring six points during the spurt, capped by a floater from Bogdan Bogdanovic and a jumper by Rajon Rondo for a 115-94 lead.
The Pistons answered with three straight 3-pointers, by Wright, Hayes and Jackson, starting a 15-0 run to get within single digits. They pulled closer with 2:21 left, after Grant hit a 3-pointer and Mason Plumlee (nine points and six rebounds) was fouled and hit the free throw to trim the lead to 119-112.
Grant was a difference-maker in his best game with the Pistons, showing why he was their biggest target in free agency. Getting to the rim and finishing and showing his offensive versatility, Grant looks to be a high-volume offensive option.
“He's always had that; he's always been able to attack the rim and get to the rim. Now we just have to settle down and get his 3-ball falling,” Casey said. “That's the difference in our game right now. We're getting great looks and turning down some looks but again he's doing a great job of attacking the paint and getting to the rim and the foul line.”
Young (29 points) created some cushion with a 3-pointer, but the Pistons continued their surge, with a lob from Hayes to Plumlee and a 3-pointer from Grant, making it a 122-117 deficit at the 1:05 mark. The Pistons had another chance to cut into the lead, but had a turnover and Collins added a pair of free throws.
Jackson hit a late 3-pointer but Young made all four of his free throws down the stretch.