All losses are not created equally.
The Detroit Pistons have become king of the cute loss, most recently their impressive triumph over the Brooklyn Nets earlier this week. Facing the Indiana Pacers on Thursday, the Pistons had another chance to take down a solid playoff team.
Things did not go so well.
Indiana scored whenever it wanted and Detroit struggled to muster offense in the first and fourth quarters as the Pacers won going away, 111-95.
Though the game itself was a drag to watch, there were some fun moments and performances nestled in there. Let’s start with Isaiah Stewart, who made his first NBA start with Mason Plumlee nursing a bum elbow.
Pistons fans have clamored for the 16th overall pick to take on a bigger role, and Dwane Casey gave him a chance with Plumlee and Jahlil Okafor out. Of course, that chance came against perhaps the best big man duo in the NBA with Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner.
Stewart held his own, scoring a career-best 17 points while grabbing 7 rebounds, blocking a shot and coming away with a pair of steals. He did most of his damage in the second quarter, which also happened to be the Pistons best quarter.
Dennis Smith Jr., acquired in the Derrick Rose trade, was quiet in his debut. Scoreless in seven first-half minutes, Smith finished with 4 points and 2 rebounds in 15 minutes. He was, however, part of an interesting lineup in the second quarter.
After shooting 33% in the first, the Pistons shot 61% in the second and made a run behind a front court of Griffin, Grant and Doumbouya with Jackson and Smith in the back court.
It was a very un-Pistons-like lineup: speed, athleticism, floor spacing, youth... and damn, it was fun. Griffin started the game aggressive, but as the shots stopped falling, his game fell off a cliff. The twisting layups were nice, but too often Griffin dribbled himself into trouble and had to get rid of the ball near the end of the shot clock.
Poor Delon Wright (6 points) was on the receiving end of three of these grenades, eating the ball the final time rather than throw up a frustratingly-contested three with a second left on the shot clock. How can you blame him?
With Jerami Grant struggling to 9 points on 4 of 17 shooting, Josh Jackson was the bouncy wing who made tonight worth while.
There’s nothing graceful about Jackson’s offensive game, but his athleticism is just so effortless. Sometimes, I don’t think he knows what to do with it all, but other times he just glides through the air and makes getting to the rim look so simple.
Another stagger handoff play gets Josh Jackson going, and he hits the defense with a great crossover on his way to an incredible finish. pic.twitter.com/16YKoFdPEq— Halbridious (@Halbridious) February 12, 2021
Jackson has been on a tear recently and was the best Pistons perimeter player against Indiana, finishing with 18 points, 8 rebounds and 4 assists. Saddiq Bey was a close second, scoring 10 points while flashing a nice post-up game that could serve him well as defenders chase him off the 3-point line more.
The other interesting nugget to come out of this was Sekou, who spent most of his time on the floor at center — and that might end up being a good thing. The less dribbling and thinking he has to do out three, the better he plays.
He crashed the boards (6 rebounds) and rim ran (6 points) all night, two things he’s good at right now. I’m not sure how they dabble more in this with Plumlee healthy, but in the meantime, the Pistons might be onto something with this.
Overall, this loss left a lot to be desired... but it was still a loss, so all good, I guess, right?
The young guys played reasonably well, but Grant, Griffin, and Wright all struggled mightily in big minutes. Close losses are more fun than losses like this — and those vets need to play well for these games to be close — but as long as the kids are doing good things, games like this aren’t that bad.