Three quick observations of Sunday night’s 144-109 loss to the San Antonio Spurs at the AT&T Center
ENLIGHTENED – The Pistons have found out what their breaking point is for losing players and making lineups on the fly. With their list of unavailable players dropping to 11 – including eight due to NBA health and safety protocols related to COVID-19 – with the additions of Trey Lyles, Cory Joseph and Josh Jackson on Sunday, the Pistons have played hard against San Antonio for a quarter before the roof collapsed. The Spurs outscored them 40-24 in a second quarter in which the Pistons shot 6 of 24 and at one point a 30-point lead. The Spurs had 119 points after three quarters and led by 39. The Pistons pushed Miami to the buzzer in their previous game when they did not have four favorite starters in seven total absences. But Joseph and Lyles combined 49 points and gave the Pistons two players with a lot of NBA experience. Sunday – with Dwane Casey missing again for personal reasons and three other assistant coaches also sidelined by COVID-19 protocols as well as one of three NBA referees assigned to the game – they needed four players signed for 10 day contracts in the past few days to flesh out the list. Isaiah Stewart, Killian Hayes, Cade Cunningham, Rodney McGruder and Saben Lee were the other Pistons missing due to health and safety protocols while Jerami Grant and Kelly Olynyk remain injured. Hamidou Diallo led the Pistons with 28 points.
THE NEW GUYS – All four players signed 10-day emergency contracts recently authorized by the NBA to replenish exhausted COVID rosters played before the end of the first quarter. The four – Derrick Walton Jr., Cheick Diallo, Cassius Stanley and Deividas Sirvydis – spent the 2021-22 season with the G League Motor City Cruise.
Walton shot the start as the only roster to qualify as a point guard. Walton, not drafted from Michigan in 2017, had 42 games of NBA experience to his credit with Miami, the Los Angeles Clippers and the Detroit, for which he played three games in 2019-2020. Walton, a Detroit native, hasn’t scored a goal in 31 minutes, missing five shots but registered six assists. Cheick Diallo, who made his Pistons debut in Thursday’s game in Miami, was called up early and often as starting center Luka Garza, who scored a season-high 20 points in 20 minutes, dodged fouls for much of the game and fouled early in the fourth quarter. Diallo also fouled, finishing with nine points and nine rebounds in 19 minutes. Cassius Stanley, the 54e 2020 Draft Pick after a season at Duke, played 24 games for Indiana as a rookie. He came to training camp with the Pistons and signed with the Cruise. He finished with nine points, three rebounds and two assists in 20 minutes. Sirvydis was 38e choice of the 2019 draft by the Pistons. He spent the 2019-20 season playing in Europe and came to the Pistons last season, but was suspended before training camp this season. He scored three points on 1 of 8 shots.
STILL AWAKE – Saddiq Bey started his 78e back-to-back game in San Antonio, the fifth longest active streak in the NBA and all the more incredible given that Bey is the only one of the Pistons’ favorite starters to be in uniform. After a sometimes hectic first third of the season, Bey has turned the tide in recent weeks. Before aiming for 23 points and eight rebounds on Sunday, Bey had averaged 23.0 points, 7.0 rebounds and 3.6 assists with 38% 3-pointers and 47% overall shots in his previous five games. . That compares to 11.9 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.3 assists on 30 and 35 percent gaps in his first 26 games. Bey continued to show more diversity in his score than he showed as a rookie, when two-thirds of his shots were 3-point attempts. Bey didn’t have a good night on the pitch, shooting 5 of 16 and 1 of 6 of three, but found a way to score by hitting the foul line and converting 12 of 14.