Detroit Pistons: Most surprising win of the 2021-22 season

Hamidou Diallo #6 and Saddiq Bey #41 of the Detroit Pistons celebrate their win against the San Antonio Spurs at Little Caesars Arena on January 01, 2022 (Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images)
Hamidou Diallo #6 and Saddiq Bey #41 of the Detroit Pistons celebrate their win against the San Antonio Spurs at Little Caesars Arena on January 01, 2022 (Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images) /

The Detroit Pistons only won 23 games in the 2021-22 season and there were times when it looked like the next win may never come.

Cade Cunningham had to miss time early in the season and got off to a slow start, as did Saddiq Bey, whose struggles briefly prompted questions about the G-League.

The Pistons went through a 14-game losing streak and things were looking bleak. This was especially true in late December/early January, when the roster was decimated with COVID and running out lineups full of players most fans had never heard of.

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The pinnacle of this was on January 1st, when the Detroit Pistons took on the San Antonio Spurs. The Pistons were on another four-game losing streak and trotted out the following starting lineup:

  • Derrick Walton Jr.
  • Cassius Stanley
  • Hamidou Diallo
  • Saddiq Bey
  • Luka Garza

In other words, this was not a game the Detroit Pistons were expected to win, as this starting five had more G-Leaguers than NBA players. But no one told the Pistons, who played a scrappy game and treated the home crowd to one of the most entertaining and surprising victories of the season.

Detroit Pistons vs. San Antonio Spurs: Saddiq Bey in the clutch

The Pistons were able to pull out a 117-116 overtime win over the Spurs behind huge minutes and contributions from their makeshift starting lineup and some unexpected bench contributors.

Saddiq Bey had a horrible night shooting, but ended with 21 points, 17 rebounds, three assists and two steals. He hit the most important (and difficult) 3-point shot of the night, and after going just 1-of-11 from 3-point range prior, even Bey looked surprised that this went in to seal the game, much to the delight of Johnny Kane who nearly lost his mind.

This had to be a top-5 play of the year, as the shot was not only incredibly difficult but Walton Jr.’s set up pass had to go between the legs of the defender. The degree of difficulty of this pass and shot were off the charts.

Luka Garza added 20 points and 14 rebounds in what was his best game of the season.

But the real star of the night was Hamidou Diallo, who was absolutely everywhere and put in an effort that made me tired just watching. He played a whopping 50 minutes in the game and ended with 34 points, 14 rebounds, four assists, five steals, two blocks and about five highlight reel dunks in one of the best individual performances of the season for the Detroit Pistons.

Sometimes the best games and performances come from unexpected places, which was definitely the case in this one. Saddiq Bey showed his perseverance as one of the only players in the NBA who started every game for his team, including this one when he was the only starter left.

Diallo showed his enticing upside, as he was a defensive menace, made hustle plays all over the floor and made some big plays in transition. Games like this make picking up his team option seem like a no-brainer, so hopefully we’ll see them more consistently in the future.

This definitely wasn’t a game for the casual NBA fan, but it ended up being one of the best games of the 2021-22 NBA season and it was great to see these young guys step up when they got the opportunity.

Detroit got some of their regulars back in the next game (another surprising win over Milwaukee) but on this night Saddiq, Hamidou and a bunch of G-Leaguers got their chance to shine.

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