3 takeaways from Detroit Pistons great battle against Philadelphia

Philadelphia 76ers guard Ben Simmons (right) drives to the basket against Detroit Pistons center Isaiah Stewart (28) during the second quarter at Little Caesars Arena. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports
Philadelphia 76ers guard Ben Simmons (right) drives to the basket against Detroit Pistons center Isaiah Stewart (28) during the second quarter at Little Caesars Arena. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports /

The Detroit Pistons’ Saturday night matchup against the Philadelphia 76ers followed a familiar script. Detroit was the underdog, but played up to the level of their competition, which was very high, and kept it closer than onlookers expected.

But alas, the typical script — with or without Blake Griffin and Derrick Rose — eventually results in the Detroit Pistons letting a victory fall through its fingers.

Philadelphia topped Detroit, 114-110, to drop the latter to 3-13 on the season, while the Sixers are an Eastern Conference-best record of 12-5. Here’s three takeaways from the game:

Isaiah Stewart could start over Mason Plumlee for Detroit Pistons

Isaiah Stewart, a center whose game is styled around an aggressive low-post presence, was one of the most reviled picks of the 2020 NBA Draft when Detroit took him at No. 16.

He quickly hushed doubters and became a fan favorite by demonstrating unrivaled tenacity on the court, lining up against established veterans with brashness of his own.

While he stands at just 6-foot-9 as a‘5’, he was tailor-made to lineup against notoriously hot-headed centers like Joel Embiid and Dwight Howard.

Related Story. Detroit Pistons: Old school Isaiah Stewart may be perfect modern center. light

No, nobody expected Detroit to reasonably contain Embiid, an MVP candidate, but his infectious energy made him the toughest matchup between the three Pistons centers, him, Plumlee, and Jahlil Okafor.

Plumlee’s presence in the starting lineup is due to an amalgam of his contract, experience, and above-average astuteness on the court. But his ceiling is limited and it showed against Embiid, who finished with 33 points and 14 boards on 10-for-20 shooting and fouled out with seven minutes remaining.

Plumlee invited himself into three first-half fouls, two of which came from Embiid’s trickery driving to the hoop. Plumlee doesn’t have the athleticism to keep up with most modern big men; Saturday’s showing was another example.

Like Derrick Rose, Plumlee is a suitable backup who could provide steadiness in the second unit. Stewart will take his lumps as a rookie amongst going against starters, but he’s doing that anyway.

Stewart finished with eight points, five rebounds, and was entrusted by coach Dwane Casey to close out the game, with Plumlee out.

He also had one of the night’s best moments: ripping Howard’s shorts while simultaneously drawing an offensive foul and technical on him.

Wayne Ellington was Detroit Pistons second-best signing

Besides acquiring Jerami Grant, who would have predicted that signing Wayne Ellington would be one of Detroit’s best offseason moves?

Ellington began this season on the bench and began working his way towards getting rotation minutes. Through necessity, Ellington was eventually thrusted into the starting lineup, and has been setting basketball courts aflame.

In this most recent four-game stretch, Ellington leads the league in 3-pointers made with 21, which is also a Pistons record. He wasn’t averaging double-digit points before, but has scored almost 20 per game, making over half of his 3s.

Ellington brought a sorely-needed scoring punch to the starting lineup, and it wasn’t just beyond the 3-point line. Ellington also found his way on the scoreboard as a cutter ,and even driving to the rim from the top of the key.

Coming into the season Ellington was barely on anyone’s radar, but he has played himself into a valuable asset, that the Pistons could deal by the trade deadline.

Creating value out of thin air is how Detroit expedites a long, long rebuild.

Teams are figuring out Jerami Grant

Something is up with Jerami Grant, and it’s taken the sheen off of his blazing start with Detroit.

He is no longer one of the league’s best-kept secrets and teams are now keying in on him — his past two games have been his worst since the season opener.

After shooting 4-for-15 from the field on Friday, Grant followed with a truly abysmal 3-for-19 night, to snap his 14-game streak of scoring 20 or more points. Facing up against NBA all-defensive team member Ben Simmons is a rigorous task, but Grant needed to win more of the face-offs than he did.

Perhaps more concerning, he has been especially careless with the ball, registering five turnovers and a litany of out-of-rhythm shots and passes.

Despite Grant’s struggles, Detroit was able to keep the deficit in the single digits almost the entire night. That’s a welcome sign for how other guys can pick up the slack, but is not a recipe for sustained success.

Grant was bound to experience hiccups in his first exposure to being the go-to player. Casey has acknowledge the learning curve he has been on, too. But the lows reaching this depth warrant mild concern.

Other Random Detroit Pistons notes

After scoring just seven points combined in the past four games, Saddiq Bey regained some confidence and scored 10 points starting in place of Blake Griffin. He even made a two-pointer for the first time in four games.

Finally, Sekou Doumbouya showed glimpses of the player that fans had been clamoring for. He was anticipatory on defense, leading to deflections and poor looks at the rim. Offensively, his cuts were well-timed and even sunk a rhythm 3-pointer.

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Svi Mykhailiuk made the most of his minutes, notching a 15-3-4 line and in the future could cut into Josh Jackson’s minutes if he continues to struggle.

Saben Lee got a good run in Derrick Rose’s absence. He hasn’t shown too many flashes, but displayed some veteran savvy in limited minutes for a rookie. He did not hurt them.