Observations: Saddiq Bey stars again, Jerami Grant finds groove as Pistons notch first win
Detroit — The Pistons squandered a lead in their first four games, and did so again against the Boston Celtics on Friday night. But they showed some resilience in bouncing back for their first win of the season, 96-93.
Without Blake Griffin, who remains in the NBA’s concussion protocol, they led by as many as 21 in the first half, but lost the lead in the fourth quarter and had to rally in the final minutes to get the victory.
Here are some takeaways from the Pistons’ first win:
EARNING HIS TIME: Rookie Saddiq Bey seems to be gaining confidence every game. He had his third straight game scoring in double figures, with a season-best 17 points on 5-of-10 shooting, including 5-of-8 on 3-pointers. Although his jump shot looks flat on the release, it’s been more than effective for Bey, as he’s gotten better at catching defenders going under screens, leaving him enough space to get his shot away. In his last three games, Bey is shooting 10-of-20 on 3-pointers and when he’s been in the starting lineup, he’s been a huge benefit, giving them more spacing to put around Jerami Grant and Josh Jackson.
FINDING A GROOVE: Grant is finding an offensive groove, with his third straight game of 20-plus points. As the main scorer in the starting five, Grant got going early and carried the Pistons to a big lead in the first half. He especially liked the mismatch he found with the Celtics’ Daniel Theis defending him, including a highlight-reel dunk.
Grant is showing an ability to get to the rim with his length and to add some solid 3-point shooting. In the first four games, he shot 37% from beyond the arc and was 2-of-9 on Friday. It’s at least respectable and at 6-foot-8, he has an advantage of either speed if he’s guarded by a power forward, or size if he’s a small forward. His ability to space the floor will be one of his big assets.
CENTERS OF ATTENTION: The Pistons got solid contributions from both of their centers, with eight points and 16 rebounds by Mason Plumlee (30 minutes) and eight points and five rebounds from Isaiah Stewart (18 minutes). They attacked the boards — Plumlee had four and Stewart three offensive rebounds — and kept a number of possessions going with their activity. They each went 3-of-5 from the field, which is good efficiency at the position and how much they’re counted on to produce. Plumlee also had a critical stop on the Celtics’ go-ahead attempt, getting Marcus Smart to take a tough shot before Plumlee got the rebound and was fouled.
BENCH MINUTES: With Blake Griffin out, the Pistons had to shuffle the rotation some, sliding Grant to power forward and putting Bey in the starting group. That meant more minutes for Svi Mykhailiuk (nine points in 18 minutes) and Sekou Doumbouya (scoreless in 11 minutes). That seems to be a solid 10 players for coach Dwane Casey when Griffin is out, and when he returns, it could mean having to choose between Doumbouya and Mykhailiuk, depending on the matchup. That’ll fluctuate throughout the season, but there seems to be some shape and form for the most part. The minutes at point guard were split almost evenly between Derrick Rose and Killian Hayes.
MORE LEARNING: Killian Hayes had another rough game on the offensive end, but he held his own defensively. He missed all five of his shots and looked to be either off-balance or rushing his shots. When he’s gotten his feet settled and had a good rhythm, he’s been much better. The Celtics’ guards proved to be tough on him defensively and they seemed to speed him up and force him into jumping before he knew what he wanted to do with the ball. On defense, he had some good plays, including a switch onto 6-foot-8 Daniel Theis, where he guarded the big man and prevented a pass into the paint on the mismatch. He seems to be further ahead in his defense than his offense, though he did have six assists and just two turnovers.