Hot-firing T-wolves tripping pistons

Three quick observations from Thursday night’s 128-117 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves at Little Caesars Arena

INCREASE IN SUBSIDIES – Jerami Grant is still recovering – not so much from the thumb injury as from the long spell of inactivity following that Dec. 10 incident which was punctuated by a fight under NBA health and safety protocols and had a impact on conditioning. Dwane Casey, as he did when Grant returned Tuesday after a seven-week absence, kept Grant at seven and eight for three quarters. And Grant was about as effective in those 21 minutes as he had been since joining the Pistons, putting up 18 points on 7 of 11 shots. As the game ticked away, Casey brought Grant back with 10:24 left after compiling 18 points on 7 of 11 shots in three quarters. Grant was on the floor as the Pistons led an 11-0 run to shoot within five points with 3:37 left. Allow 18 of 7 of 11 and 3 of 6 from three to three quarters. He missed all seven shots in the fourth quarter and finished with 20 points and five rebounds. The Pistons hit 6 of 14 from the 3-point arc in the first quarter to stay close after falling 10 points early but only 9 of 32 after that. They built an eight-point lead late in the second quarter before Minnesota cut it to two at halftime. The Timberwolves, who took the lead with a 17-4 streak late in the third quarter that turned a six-point deficit into a seven-point advantage and pulled out early in the fourth quarter when they were 14 on 26 from the 3-point line. Minnesota then missed seven straight threes to allow the Pistons a comeback opportunity before Patrick Beverly hit one with 29 seconds left for an eight-point lead. Frank Jackson led the Pistons with 25 points and hit 5 of 11 for three.

HIP CHECK – The hip pointer Cade Cunningham suffered in Tuesday’s loss to New Orleans kept him out of Thursday’s game after it was listed as questionable in the NBA’s official injury report . Josh Jackson also missed the game, his third in a row, with back spasms. Cunningham’s place in the starting lineup was filled by Rodney McGruder, allowing Dwane Casey to keep Frank Jackson in a preferred role coming off the bench. Cunningham’s absence cost fans a chance to see the final two No. 1 overall picks go head to head as they would almost certainly have kept each other. Edwards, who finished second in Rookie of the Year voting in last season’s LaMelo Ball in Charlotte, scored 12 points in the first half and then launched into the third quarter on multiple drives to the basket for score 10 of his 25 points. Edwards’ three-point play with three minutes left snapped the Pistons’ 11-0 run that brought them within five points.

BEY WATCH – Saddiq Bey helped the Pistons stay close after quickly falling 10 points behind in the first quarter, finishing the quarter with a buzzer tip to give his team a 32-31 lead. Bey had 11 points, seven rebounds and four assists in the quarter and finished with 21 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists. If there were any concerns about Bey splits with and without Jerami Grant in the lineup, Thursday’s performance should alleviate them. Bey took off when Grant went down on Dec. 10 with a thumb injury that caused him to miss 24 games. Bey took Grant’s place as power forward and also played an increased role and flourished. In 25 games before Grant’s injury, Bey averaged 12.2 points and shot 34.8 percent on 12.8 shots per game. In the 24 games without Grant, those numbers rose to 19.1 points on 42.4 percent shooting, including 36.0 percent on three and 15.0 attempts per game. When Grant returned on Tuesday, Bey scored seven points and shot 2 of 10. But, remember, Bey was named to the All-Rookie First Team last season while playing alongside Grant.

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