Pistons' Stewart holds his own against larger Christian Wood

Rod Beard
The Detroit News

Detroit — On a nightly basis, Isaiah Stewart gives up size to almost every opposing starting center. At 6-foot-8, he doesn’t have ideal height, but he’s learning how to make up for the difference by using his strength and positioning to his advantage.

In Saturday’s matchup against Rockets center Christian Wood, who is 6-10, Stewart was giving up a couple of inches, but he still managed to hold his own.

Stewart finished with 16 points and eight rebounds in 20 minutes, and he was 7-of-9 from the field, building on his nine points and nine rebounds against the Indiana Pacers and nine points and 10 rebounds against the Brooklyn Nets.

Houston Rockets center Christian Wood (35) reaches in on Detroit Pistons center Isaiah Stewart during the first half.

He’s showing some improvement, but it’s just a point in Stewart's progress.

Utilizing his strength and finding ways to move Wood to create space for himself was a step that showed some of his progress.

“It's just things I've been working on,” Wood said. “Being the starter this year and going against a lot of 7-footers, they have a lot of length, so I have to use my shoulder hits, use my strength more and be more patient down low.”

Coach Dwane Casey has seen the improvements that Stewart has made, and noted that it’s not just on the young center to be in position; it’s on the guards to get him the ball in the right spots where he can be most effective.

“He did a great job of shoulder-hitting, bumping him off his mark and scoring over him,” Casey said. “I thought he did an excellent job of that, and that's what we've got to get more of, with teams switching and being able to pass it in safely and throw it to the hand, as Kevin Garnett used to say, and make sure the entry pass gets in.

“A lot of it is on our passes; they've got to be ready to pass because you got about a half-second to get that ball in there before the defense shapes back up or three seconds. We've got to do a better job of that and it's something we've worked on, but guys have to get comfortable.”

Coughing it up

Among the Pistons’ issues in their recent stretch of losses has been their turnovers and the lack of ball movement. In Saturday’s game, they had 21 miscues, which contributed to the loss by giving the Rockets some easy opportunities and giving themselves fewer chances.

One improvement was the assist numbers from the starting guards, with Cade Cunningham (11 assists) and Killian Hayes (10) combining for 21 assists. Hayes’ total matched his season high and was one off of his career-best totals.

“We had some decent ball movement. I think just continuing that through third actions and fourth actions,” Cunningham said. “Whenever we get to the third side, if we don't have anything, just forcing movement and not allowing ourselves to just stand and watch somebody with the ball. I think all those things will help us a lot, but we're growing.

“We're working on it every day at practice and the coaches have been really serious about that being the way we need to play, so we're working on it.”

Garza steps in

Rookie Luka Garza has been shuttling between the G League and the Pistons, but when he was called upon Saturday after Stewart got into foul trouble, he answered the bell and was a boost to the Pistons in the second half.

He contributed nine points and three rebounds in nine minutes and finished 4-of-6 from the field.

“Luka was ready. That's something he does, and he did his job coming in rebounding, which is an Achilles heel of ours right now, but I thought he did a good job of recognizing it,” Casey said. “I thought he had two wide-open shots he normally makes, but he came in and made an impact.”

Heat at Pistons

Tip-off: 6 p.m. Sunday, Little Caesars Arena

TV/radio: BSD/950

Outlook: The Heat (18-12) have won four of their last five games, and they’re tied for fourth in the East with the Cleveland Cavaliers.


Twitter.com: @detnewsRodBeard