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Pistons observations: Pistons show positive signs before OT loss against Hawks

Rod Beard
The Detroit News

After losing three of their last four games, the Pistons were looking to finish the last game of their three-game road trip in Miami and Atlanta.

They had an impressive win in the first game and lost a 19-point lead in the second but had one of their best games of the season in Monday’s matchup against the Hawks, until they gave up a 17-point lead in the final seven minutes of regulation and lost, 123-115, in overtime.

Detroit Pistons forward Blake Griffin (23) and Atlanta Hawks center Clint Capela vie for control of the ball during the second half.

Here are some takeaways from the Pistons’ defeat:

Ellington option: Wayne Ellington continues to dazzle in the starting lineup as a scoring option. He didn’t play much early in the season, but he’s made up for lost time as a veteran option for coach Dwane Casey. He’s been a find with his excellent outside shooting, but he’s also been a “solid defender” according to Casey, which makes him a better fit for the starting group than some of the younger players. Ellington got going with a couple of 3-pointers early in the third quarter and then added another to keep the lead at double digits.

Hawks boards: The Pistons didn’t have an answer for the Hawks’ tandem of Clint Capela and John Collins, who were a menace on the boards on both ends of the court. Capela had 14 points and 14 rebounds in his first 13 minutes and the Pistons looked to be children playing among grown men, because they couldn’t get to the ball and the Hawks had several extra chances. The Pistons’ best offensive rebounder, Isaiah Stewart, seemed to slow some of that momentum when he entered the game late in the first quarter, but he picked up three fouls quickly and had to sit for the remainder of the half. Without him, the Hawks took advantage of Mason Plumlee, and the Pistons had to use Jahlil Okafor.

Stewart foul trouble: Amid the rebounding issues for the Pistons, they needed Stewart to provide some kind of presence in the post, but because of his foul trouble — three in his first stint in the first half — he had to sit and didn’t come back until the second half. That’s been part of his identity in the first part of the season, with plenty of energy in getting on the offensive boards, but when he gets into foul trouble, he limits his playing time and the opportunities he could get as the backup center.

Rose the spark: Derrick Rose was dependable and efficient off the bench again, with scoring spurts when the Pistons needed them. He’s been very solid off the bench since returning from his knee injury; in the last two games, he’s averaging 22 points and four assists in 24 minutes, going 14-of-23 from the field. Rose continued Wednesday, going 7-of-11 through the first three quarters, slicing through the Hawks’ defense and was able to get into the paint and hit an array of floaters and short jumpers.

Mixing and matching: It looks as if Casey has some decisions to make at the back of the rotation, but the starting lineup appears to be fairly solidified. Casey had questioned whether he wanted to make changes in the starting lineup because of the slow starts they had been having, but with Ellington’s emergence and building a bit more chemistry, things are starting to work out a little better. There are some adjustments to make in terms of when the substitutions are made and which players come in, but the second unit seems to be set as well, with Okafor getting minutes when Stewart is in four trouble and then Casey choosing either Saddiq Bey or Sekou Doumbouya, who each played sparingly on Monday.

Rod.Beard@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @detnewsRodBeard