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Thunder sink to watered-down Pistons 110-104, losing streak to nine

With Detroit missing Jerami Grant, Mason Plumlee, Hamidou Diallo, and four other Pistons, the Oklahoma City Thunder strutted into the Little Caesar’s Arena as rare favorites. That tagline did not last long however as the Thunder sunk their ninth-straight game to the Pistons, falling 110-104. Oklahoma City (20-36) moved to fifth in lottery odds following the loss while the Detroit Pistons still reign as a bottom three team at 17-39, the issue — they’ve now opened the door for competitors sitting 3.0 games back from the sixth slot.

The Thunder clobbered the Pistons to begin the contest holding them to a 3-of-13 and rejecting 4 shots to garner an early 10-6 lead. Oklahoma City honed their skill inside to kickstart the first tallying eight two-point field goals before a Lu Dort three lifted the lid from distance 8 minutes, 2 seconds in. Detroit sputtered defending Oklahoma City late in the frame, allowing for six consecutive field goals for the Thunder, ultimately closing shop up 32-25. Oklahoma City’s roots of fixating inside stuck for all twelve minutes tallying 24 points in the paint while swatting 6 shots.

Oklahoma City took control of the second quarter racking up a 15-point lead three minutes in off a 13-4 spurt by running-and-gunning in the fastbreak offense. Once Detroit shored up their fastbreak defense they were back up and running, shaving the lead to single-digits until claiming a 7-0 run to tighten the gap to four — and a minute later, three. Oklahoma City retained their lead until the final minute of the period when Saddiq Bey banked in a pullup right-wing three, knotting the first half 56-56.

Neither side shot well from distance in the half as Oklahoma City shot a paltry 2-of-12 while Detroit converted on 6-of-18 tries. The Thunder bully-balled their way to 40 points in the paint going 50-percent from the field while Detroit sunk just 22 points inside hitting just 38-percent of shots. The Pistons’ saving grace came from the referee’s whistle taking 21 free throws to the Thunder’s mere 11 tries.

Detroit shut down Oklahoma City’s pathways inside from the third quarter’s onset, leading to themselves taking their first lead since 13-12 off a 13-6 start to climb seven points up. Once the Thunder found the key to the lane, training-camp signee Frank Jackson juiced the Pistons’ lead up to 9 by rattling eight consecutive points, and the Thunder could never respond — entering the fourth behind 86-79. Errant mistakes plastered Oklahoma City’s walls in the frame, coughing up 7 turnovers off a variety of on what mistakes and interference calls. On Detroit’s front, they kept the ball under control posting 8 assists including a Killian Hayes side-armed bounce pass that was knifed 40-feet between two defenders.

Josh Jackson brightened his night scoring five-straight to open the fourth, baiting Kenrich Williams’ with a pump-fake to a right-wing three before sinking a layup to reclaim a nine-point advantage. Dwyane Casey made a head-scratching call to keep his bench unit out against Oklahoma City’s starters — and it cost them their multiple possession cushion, deflating to just three points at the midway point. Empty possessions from both sides ensued for two minutes before Lu Dort lasered a bullet pass down low to Moses Brown who cut the lead to one after scoring off a second-chance layup. Frank Jackson reentered the equation taking the ball coast-to-coast for a layup to regain a three-point lead. A controversy took place at the 3-minute mark as Lu Dort had drawn a charge on Josh Jackson, but a Casey review overturned the play and helped anchor a five-point Piston lead. Isaiah Stewart inserted two daggers into Oklahoma City finishing off a layup and alley-oop on the very next possession for a nine-point lead but they weren’t in the clear just yet. The Thunder scrapped at the Pistons for every rebound and possession while narrowing the lead to six off of a Lu Dort four-point play and with 10.3 seconds a four-point game off an Isaiah Roby right-corner three.  

“I thought we fought throughout the game. Our energy our effort was high spirit tonight. Got ourselves back on track competitively tonight,” said Daigneault postgame. “The worst moments were execution moments, they weren’t competitive moments… drinking from a fire hose a little bit.”

Detroit used Oklahoma City’s missteps to harvest a grand total of 30 points off turnovers using an up-tempo offense to number 22 assists. Josh Jackson led the Pistons with 29 points (9-of-16 FG) while Thunder training-camp attendee Frank Jackson smacked back at his old team with 18 points (5-of-10 FG.) Isaiah Stewart was a man on a mission versus Moses Brown, anchoring 15 points (7-of-12 FG) and a game-high 22 rebounds (9 offensive.)

This was the second-straight game where Oklahoma City recorded more turnovers (21) than assists (19) in a contest — that’s a pretty good gauge of where the problems may have started. In their defense though, they found a vast number of threes but could never convert, going a mere 7-of-39 from downtown (17.9%.) Inside play remained the strong suit in half number two, though their 10-of-20 clip shed light on a very inefficient showing.

Oklahoma City amassed just four double-digit scorers Friday, but Lu Dort helped to ease that area. Dort returned from his two-day vacation to score a team-high 26 points (9-of-20 FG) marking the only Thunder player to hit multiple triples — nailing 3. Darius Bazley has been no joke this season attacking the rim, the same mindset applied Friday. The sophomore rattled Detroit with 19 points (7-of-19 FG) and 7 rebounds while making all his shots right inside. On that same note, Baze has continued to miss the mark from downtown, that streak carried over as he drilled just 1-of-10 tries. The big-man duo of Moses Brown and Tony Bradley tallied 12 and 11 points respectively, snagging a collective 15 rebounds. Four players approached double-digits with eight-plus points including Theo Maledon, Maledon played an unorthodox night going 3-of-14 (1-of-9 3pt FG) for 8 points while boasting a tie with Moses Brown for the most rebounds (8.)

The Oklahoma City Thunder (20-36) will head to Tampa for their weekend-capper to face another lottery team in the Toronto Raptors (23-34.)

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