As the regular season comes to a close the NBA’s worst teams are in the final leg of their race to the bottom of the standings, but the Detroit Pistons are playing some of their best basketball of the season.
The Pistons entered Sunday evening’s matchup against the Indiana Pacers with numerous injuries holding out key players, most notably star rookie Cade Cunningham. the 20-year-old rookie joined Jerami Grant, Cory Joseph, Marvin Bagley III and Hamidou Diallo on the bench.
Despite the mounting injuries, the shorthanded Pistons defeated the Pacers 121-117 on the road. It was a tremendous team win as all but two Pistons players finished the game scoring double-digit points. Saddiq Bey lead the team scoring 31 points in just under 23 minutes. Braxton Key, who the Pistons just signed to a two-way contract, fell just one rebound shy of a double-double after scoring a career-high 12 points.
In a season where three-point shooting was a consistent area of weakness, Detroit was stellar for once. The team shot 51.2 percent from beyond the arc on 41 attempts. Bey again lead the way shooting seven-for-nine from deep. Killian Hayes continued to show his development from long range as he sank two of his three attempts from beyond the arc, all three were catch-and-shoot attempts. Six of Frank Jackson‘s 19 points came from beyond the arc.
Detroit lead through much of the first half against Indiana. However, the Pacers managed to steal the lead heading into halftime at 66-62. The Pistons stole back the lead in the third quarter and held onto it throughout the duration of the fourth.
Saddiq Bey steps up again for the Pistons
The last time the Pistons found themselves without Grant or Cunningham in the lineup, Bey dominated the Orlando Magic to the tune of 51 points. Without their two top-scoring options against the Pacers, Bey again stepped up as a leading scorer. The 22-year-old set the tone early. He attempted six three-pointers in the first six minutes of the game, sinking all of them.
Bey contributed 21 of the Pistons’ 38 first-quarter points. It looked as if another 50 point game was in the cards, Bey scored 21 points in the first frame against Orlando as well. The 22-year-old played the entirety of the first quarter and did not see the court much more after that. Bey played in a little over ten minutes in the second and third quarters combined. He did not play at all in the fourth quarter.
It was not quite the 50 point game against Orlando, but Bey stepped up big time for the shorthanded Pistons. Most of his points came within the flow of Detroit’s offense. Bey hustled to get open and the ball handlers found him. It was not until he was already hot that he started putting the ball on the floor to create for himself.
Coach Dwane Casey recently commented on Bey’s potential as an off-the-dribble scorer. Casey went as far as to say he sees Bey’s development leading to playing in pick-and-rolls as the ball handler. The 22-year-old did not play in any pick-and-rolls against the Pacers, but he showed exactly why Casey had such high praise for him.
Carsen Edwards receives minutes just hours after signing
On Sunday morning, The Athletic‘s Shams Charania reported the Pistons were signing Carsen Edwards to a two-year contract. Edwards was a standout in the G-League averaging 26.7 points per game on 38.9 percent shooting from beyond the arc. The team waived Chris Smith to make room for the 24-year-old Edwards.
Edwards barely had time to get acquainted with his new teammates before he was thrown right into the rotation. Injuries to Cunningham, Joseph and Saben Lee left the Pistons with Killian Hayes as the only other point guard available against Indiana.
A 2019 second-round pick, Edwards played admirably in his first game as a Piston. He notched 13 points while shooting two-for-six from three-point range. Just as Key fell just one rebound short of a double-double, Edwards’ was a single assist away from his own. Not bad for a guy playing big minutes mere hours after signing with a new team.
(Featured Image Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports)