While most of the basketball-watching world was distracted by the opening night of the NCAA tournament, Saddiq Bey decided it would be a perfect time to drop a career-high 51 points on Thursday night in the Detroit Pistons’ win over the Orlando Magic.
As with most good things in life, it came after a heart-to-heart discussion with mom. Bey’s mother, Drewana, who played college ball herself, implored her son to be more aggressive.
“She just texts me every once in a while to give me a reality check,” Bey said after the game. “That’s what she does. That’s why I love her.”
After a stretch that saw the Pistons lose four of five, it’s just what Bey needed to hear. He had already told himself it was time to refocus and finish the season strong. In that five-game stretch, Bey struggled shooting just 33% from the floor, 21% from 3 and 11.8 points per game.
That is not the Bey who really came onto the scene this year. The one showing a mature all-around game and ability to aggressively attack the rim, pass the ball and knock down treys. Lately, he had really seemed to figure things out, especially from deep. In the 10 games before that slide, Bey was connecting on 40% of his 3s, much like he did last season as more of a catch-and-shoot specialist.
On Thursday against the Orlando, it all came together for one magical night. Bey became the youngest player in franchise history to score 50 points in a game and his 51 points was the most for any non-lottery pick during the first two seasons of their career. The accolades go on. He joins Damian Lillard as the only players to ever crack 50 points with at least 10 rebounds and 10 3s in a game and tied Joe Dumars’ franchise record with 10 made 3s in a game.
How did Bey do it? He attacked from all three levels, made great decisions, was aggressive, was always on balance and, crucially, just made some ridiculous shots. We decided to take a closer look at Bey’s fabulous 51-point game with the help of Bryce Simon (aka MotorCityHoops) breaking down the game film and examine how Bey looked from distance, in the mid-range and while attacking the rim.
From 3-point range
It’s not uncommon for Bey to get hot from distance, but it’s rare that he shoots at this kind of volume. His 14 attempts were one off a career high and he connected on 10 of them. He was able to get hot early, and that helped other parts of his game (as we get into later), and he was able to always get in perfect balance whether it was a catch-and-shoot look, a stepback or even a quick stop in transition.
In the mid-range
Bey’s ability to come off screens and square up in movement was a sight to behold. Bey was also able to face up and take advantage of mismatches to take advantage of his size, strength and speed. He used the threat of his attack and size advantage to square up and get clean, mid-range looks.
At the rim
Bey has been focused on attacking the rim this season and after really struggling with it out of the gate, he has been able to really grow that part of his game. He still struggles with touch at times, and it will likely be a real focal point of growth in the offseason. But already he has improved as someone who can create separation, get a defender on his hip, jab step to create space and even pass the ball in drive-and-kick scenarios. On Thursday against the Magic, Bey was really attacking downhill and using every bit of his size and speed advantage against overmatched guards and big men late to seal off the lane. Perhaps most importantly, he shows no fear. In transition and even with several defenders in the lane, he isn’t afraid to scan for advantages and get to the rim.
It was a night Bey will never forget, and it might point to an even brighter future. That’s why Dwane Casey put the offensive load on Bey’s shoulders when he got cooking early, and it’s why they kept feeding him and asking him to attack in the game’s late stages when the outcome was pretty much decided.
“If we won tonight, lost tonight, at least we had a very productive night for a young man. That’s going to give him a jolt of confidence that you’re going to need going forward, whether it’s the rest of this year going into the summer, into next year, you can’t pay for those types of moments for a young guy.
Casey coached a different player who scored 50 early in their career. For Terrence Ross, the night opened up his eyes on the potential for his own career, Casey said.
“He came back a different person. The confidence just went out of the roof. You don’t ever want to stymie a guy, or stunt a guy, when he’s got it going like that. Win, lose or draw, that’s what this night was about.”