OKC was looking to avenge their blowout loss against the Pistons two weeks ago and split the series 1-1. The Thunder were without SGA, Muscala, Josh Hall, Aleksej Pokusevski, and Al Horford. The new international addition to the Thunder Roster Gabriel Deck is yet to join the team on the court whilst the Pistons were without the Thunder legends Jerami Grant and Hamidou Diallo as well as Dennis Smith Jr. and Cory Joseph.
The lack of guard depth for the Pistons resulted in an interesting rookie matchup between Killian Hayes and Theo Maledon. Maledon struggled in the contest offensively, shooting 3 of 14 from the field and only shot 1 of 9 from three. Despite this, he continues to show flashes of NBA-quality guard play, notching 3 steals, and also pulled a savvy foul-drawing play for a couple of free throws. Killian Hayes didn’t particularly outperform Maledon offensively (shooting 3 of 10) but did enough to be a more positive impact in the contest, especially with his playmaking and hassling of the Thunder guards defensively.
Another interesting wrinkle in the matchup was the two young big men, Moses Brown and Isaiah Stewart. Both rookie bigs played very well and very aggressively against one another, but Stewart had the edge in the end, clocking 21 rebounds, 9 of which were offensive boards. Stewart finished with a game-high plus 20 in terms of box-plus-minus and it was evident. Isaiah Stewart’s high-impact 15 points and 21 rebounds are the lines of the night.
Darius Bazley had himself a night, slashing to the basket any chance he could, he probed the defense well on the inside when he could, shooting 6-of-8 including a flex-worthy dunk early in the first quarter, he finished the game with 19 points.
The first half was a barrage of paint scoring for both teams, a lot of interior play due to both teams having poor three-point shooting nights. In a league now filled to the brim with laser three-pointers, this looked more like an old-school slog of a match dominated by big bodies crashing to the rim.
The second half slowly got away from the Thunder with a slew of turnovers and poor offensive possessions. The bench unit let the contest slip before Bazley, Dort and the starters brought the game back. Heading into the last four minutes, Detroit was only up by 1 point before Killian Hayes’ playmaking and Josh Jackson’s clinical scoring sealed the deal for the Pistons whilst all of the Thunder’s scorers ran dry.
The real and deciding contest was that matchup between Josh Jackson and Lu Dort. Jackson wound up being the X-Factor for the Pistons working as their primary scorer. Jackson was in attack mode from the tip and had himself 29 points. Brimming with confidence, Jackson and Dort were at war by the end of the game on the court. A close call was made against Dort on a blocking foul, the referee said Dort’s left foot was not set, which wound up costing the Thunder in a game that they almost won. Dort continues to show his offensive chops with SGA absent, running more possessions as the primary ball-handler. Lu Dort finished with a team-high 26 points along with three steals.
With another loss in the bank, OKC has a day off before continuing their Eastern Conference road trip, facing Toronto on Sunday night. Detroit returns home to host the Washington Wizards on the second half of their back-to-back.