MEMPHIS, Tenn. — After putting together their best effort of the season in a win over the Milwaukee Bucks on Monday, the Detroit Pistons have played two of their worst games on the season, starting with Wednesday’s 140-111 loss to the Charlotte Hornets.
Thursday didn’t go much better. The Memphis Grizzlies built a double-digit lead in the first quarter and never looked back, defeating the Pistons 118-88. There weren’t many bright spots for the Pistons, who shot 34.3%, and 22.7% from 3. Memphis shot 49% and was led by Ja Morant, who finished with 22 points, nine rebounds and six assists.
BIG WIN OVER BUCKS:Pistons pulled off biggest win of season over Bucks. What does it mean?
PISTONS MAILBAG:Is Hamidou Diallo’s breakout for real or temporary?
Saben Lee led the Pistons (7-30) with 14 points, and Cade Cunningham and Hamidou Diallo had 12 points each. Cunningham also dished out six assists. The Pistons will return to action Saturday at home against the Orlando Magic.
Slow start hurts Pistons, again
Detroit shot poorly in the opening period, making just 31.8% (7-for-22) from the field and missing all six 3-point attempts. The Grizzlies shot 51.9% (14-for-27) overall, and held a 32-18 lead going into the second quarter.
Memphis put the game away with a 17-0 run following a dunk by Hamidou Diallo to tie the game at 8-all with 8:52 left in the quarter.. Morant’s layup with 4:11 to play in the quarter capped the run and a 25-8 Grizzlies lead.
The Pistons were never able to recover. They were slightly more competitive in the second — outscored just 30-28 — but Memphis pushed its lead to 30, 82-52, late in the third quarter after a hook from Brandon Clarke.
Detroit has now struggled with slow starts in consecutive games. The Hornets knocked down seven of their first nine 3s Wednesday, and maintained that pressure all night. Dwane Casey criticized the Pistons’ disposition after that game, and thought their sloppy defense helped the Hornets get off to a strong start.
Stewart returns to rotation
After entering health and safety protocols on Dec. 23, Isaiah Stewart missed six straight games. His absence left the Pistons, still awaiting Kelly Olynyk’s return from a left knee sprain, even more shorthanded at center.
Stewart exited protocols Tuesday, and missed Wednesday’s game to work on his conditioning before making his official return Thursday. Like most of his teammates, he had a quiet night and finished with six points and eight rebounds in 20 minutes.
Frank Jackson is Detroit’s lone player missing due to COVID now, entering protocols before Thursday’s game. Cory Joseph also cleared protocols earlier this week and could make return Saturday.
Contact Omari Sankofa II at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @omarisankofa. The Free Press has started a new digital subscription model. Here’s how you can gain access to our most exclusive Pistons content. Read more on the Detroit Pistons and sign up for our Pistons newsletter.