Three quick observations from Wednesday night’s 122-119 win over the Golden State Warriors at Chase Center
BEY CITY – After one of the NBA’s all-time great 3-point shooters, Klay Thompson, hit a triple with one second left – in a game the Pistons led nearly wire to wire save for three one-point Golden State leads spread across four quarters – Saddiq Bey answered with a very loud triple of his own at the buzzer to give the Pistons an exhilarating win in the Bay. Bey’s triple was one of several clutch threes the Pistons hit in the fourth quarter to keep Golden State at arm’s length – Bojan Bogdanovic and Killian Hayes also hit big ones, and Bey had another big three inside of two minutes – but Thompson, who missed his first six threes, hit three big ones in the home stretch to bring the Warriors back. It gave the Pistons the season sweep over Golden State and it came on the night Killian Hayes returned from his three-game suspension. It’s a measure of how far Hayes has come over the past few months that his return from a three-game suspension had a palpable positive impact on the Pistons. Hayes didn’t do a ton of scoring, but his deft passing created several favorable scoring chances and his defense plugged at least one hole at the end of the floor that’s been most problematic for the Pistons all season. Mostly, his presence and poise as the team’s primary playmaker enabled a functional offense as the Pistons shot 50 percent from the floor and 40 percent from the 3-point arc until deep into the fourth quarter. As fate would have it, Hayes got sent to the foul line with 4.2 seconds left and the Pistons clinging to a one-point lead. He drained both ends to put the Pistons ahead by three – but Thompson, coming off a 54-point outing, forced overtime with a triple with one second to play. It was Hayes who fed Bey for his game-winning three, his 13th assist of the night against zero turnovers.
JUGGLING BIG MEN – Dwane Casey continued to start both Isaiah Stewart and Jalen Duren even with Marvin Bagley III unavailable, though he followed the blueprint he laid out before the game by staggering their minutes so that the Pistons didn’t need to elevate Nerlens Noel to the rotation. Bagley incurred a right hand injury in Monday’s loss at Portland that left him with fractures and reports that he’ll be out for perhaps six to eight weeks. Duren scored a season-high 18 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in 32 minutes and went a perfect 8 of 8 from the field. Stewart finished the game at center and put up 13 points and seven rebounds, including a hustling offensive rebound in the final two minutes the resulted in a Saddiq Bey 3-point shot to put the Pistons ahead by five points with 1:24 to play. Stewart checked out midway through first quarter for Bey, then checked back in a little more than two minutes later to replace Duren as Casey looked to keep his two big men fresh while using them for as many minutes as possible at the two power positions.
SHORT BENCH – Dwane Casey didn’t go nearly as deep into his bench as usual this time. Casey, who typically uses two five-man units, only went four deep into his bench and even that overstates it. Casey didn’t bring Rodney McGruder into the game until midway through the second quarter and he wound up playing only five minutes total, not playing at all in the second half. With the return of Killian Hayes, Saddiq Bey went back to his role off the bench and he wound up hitting the biggest shot of the Pistons season to finish with 17 points. Alec Burks, whose return from injury after missing the season’s first 12 games transformed the Pistons bench from one of the NBA’s least productive to its most prolific scoring second unit, and Hamidou Diallo joined Bey as the three primary reserves leaned on by Casey. Even with the shorter bench, it was a productive night for the Pistons second unit as they combined for 41 points. Burks added 15 to Bey’s 17. Cory Joseph, Kevin Knox and Nerlens Noel did not play.
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