Detroit’s presumed starting backcourt Cade Cunningham and Killian Hayes were both out with injuries, but the rest of the roster supplied plenty of fireworks in a 115-105 win over the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday at Little Caesars Arena.
The new-look Pistons played on a new-look court and had spurts of explosive offense punctuated by lineups that maximized spacing and quality point guard play.
The Pistons were led by Jerami Grant, who maybe doesn’t get the attention its rosters of emerging prospects do, but quickly cemented his status as clearly the best player on the Pistons with a solid all-around game. Grant scored 19 points and had some strong, fluid moves to the basket and clean-looking shots from the perimeter.
Another player who stood out was second-year forward Saddiq Bey. A 3-point specialist last season, Bey spent the offseason working on his handle, his playmaking and his mid-range game, and it showed in the win against the Spurs. Bey had 13 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists. He drove the line consistently and made several smart passes to cutters and found open lanes.
Detroit’s trio of Canadians had strong games as well with Cory Joseph and Kelly Olynyk creating spacing and perimeter pressure, scoring inside and really getting Detroit’s offense going. Trey Lyles, meanwhle, capable passed the low bar of “be a more serious perimeter threat than Sekou Doumbouya.”
Joseph scored 14 points and added 6 assists. Olynyk had .... 14 points and added 6 assists. Lyles, meanwhile, scored 9 points and hit 3-of-4 from deep.
Josh Jackson also played a good game for Detroit as he was able to take advantage of some dedicated playing time with the Pistons missing Cunningham, Hayes and Frank Jackson. He was able to exert his chaos-fueled will in a strong second half leading to 16 points including a nasty crossover and a couple of solid-looking treys. Jackson
That doesn’t mean it was a flawless night for Detroit. Isaiah Stewart mostly struggled in his first game as the team’s starting center. He struggled with the enormity of Jakob Poeltl and didn’t seem to communicate well on defense.
Saben Lee also struggled in place of Killian Hayes as starting point guard. He also struggled with the length of the Spurs’ Derrick White and Lonnie Walker. Lee had just 5 points and was a team-low minus-17.
The team also struggled rebounding all night, and rebounding was perhaps the biggest red flag for this team going into the season. The Spurs had 25 second-chance points and 64 rebounds to just 45 for the Pistons.
The Spurs were led by Bryn Forbes who turned several Detroit miscues and second-chance opportunities into 20 points and dagger threes. Really, he made me miss Wayne Ellington. Keldon Johnson (18 points) also had a strong game for the Spurs, showcasing his ability to use his big body and surprisingly fluidity to get incredibly open looks at the rim. Some of that is because Detroit really had no rim protection to speak of tonight, but most of it is because that’s just what Keldon Johnson does.
The Pistons don’t play again until Oct. 11 against the Memphis Grizzlies. Hopefully by then Cade and Killian will be suiting up.