Pistons news: Baby steps, the bench and the clutch

Jan 22, 2024; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Detroit Pistons guard Marcus Sasser (25) drives to the basket
Jan 22, 2024; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Detroit Pistons guard Marcus Sasser (25) drives to the basket / David Reginek-USA TODAY Sports

For the second time in three days, the Detroit Pistons hung with the Milwaukee Bucks but came up short.

Once again, it was the bench that kept them in it, this time led by rookie Marcus Sasser and Isaiah Stewart, who was fresh back from injury.

Sasser led the Pistons in scoring and Stewart was the best player on the floor at times, registering a career-high five blocks.

Sasser doesn't pass, but he can get his own shot. He's the anti-Killian Hayes, who can rack up assists but can't do anything else. If you formed one player out of the two you may have an All-Star point guard.

Sasser is making his case to be inserted in the starting lineup, at least until Cade Cunningham returns, as Hayes is providing little and since the Pistons can't stop anyone, they may as well try to outscore them.

Related story. Ridiculous trade proposal unites Cunningham and Wembanyama. Ridiculous trade proposal unites Cunningham and Wembanyama. dark

Even though they are still losing, it does feel like the Pistons are turning a corner. They've cut down the turnovers and the spacing has been much better all around since the additions of Mike Muscala and Danilo Gallinari, who are playing limited minutes but making a big difference for the bench.

These are the baby steps we expected to see this season (albeit before it was half over) but Monty Williams acknowledged that there is still a big one that needs to happen:

“We're competing with (the best) teams, but we're not closing,” Pistons coach Monty Williams said. “That has to be our next step.”

The Pistons fell apart down the stretch, which has happened all season. You'd expect this at times with a young team, but the Pistons' numbers in the clutch truly are amazing and not in a good way.

The Detroit Pistons in the clutch

Clutch time just means the last five minutes of a close game, also known as the time when the Pistons tend to blow it.

This is the time of the game when the Milwaukee Bucks shine, as they lead the league in clutch wins (Pistons are 29th), are 2nd in offensive rating and 3rd in defensive rating.

The Pistons are 29th in both of those categories as well, with a clutch time offensive rating of 79.3 and a clutch time defensive rating of 140.5, which adds up to a net rating of -61.3, only better than the Washington Wizards.

It happened like clockwork last night, as the Pistons were leading until a Brook Lopez 3-pointer put the Bucks back up one with 4:59 left. That quickly ballooned to a six-point lead in 90 seconds and ended with the Bucks winning by nine, an 11-point swing in clutch time.

This is what happens when you have young guards making all the plays in the clutch, so hopefully the return of Monte Morris will help the Pistons close out some of these games.