It’s a Make or Miss League: 3 Observations from Yesterday’s Hard Loss to the Clippers

Clippers forward Paul George (right) left the game last night against the Pistons with a hamstring injury. (Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press)

On a night where the Detroit Pistons had all the odds stacked against them coming into this game, they made the first half competitive enough to raise some eyebrows. Rookie Sekou Doumbouya received the first start of his NBA career and made quite the impression, ending the game with a double-double. However, the Pistons couldn’t overcome the scoring barrage that the Los Angeles Clippers unleashed on them en route to a 126-112 loss. Here are three observations from yesterday’s tough loss in Hollywood.

Sekou’s Impressive First Quarter:

Right before tip-off of tonight’s game, we learned that Pistons rookie Sekou Doumbouya would get his first start of the season.

<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>Sekou Doumbouya will make his first NBA start tonight.</p>&mdash; James Edwards III (@JLEdwardsIII) <a href=””>January 3, 2020</a></blockquote>

Not only would this be his first start of his NBA career, but it would come with much-added pressure when he was tasked with guarding reigning NBA Finals MVP, Kawhi Leonard. No problem!

At least that is what I’m assuming Sekou said to himself.

The 19-year-old started off the game defensively engaged, using his long limbs to help play the passing lanes and either knock passes off their designed destination or grabbing rebounds. He just seemed to be everywhere at the right time. Doumbouya’s highlight play of the night is when he stole the ball away from Leonard and sprinted to the opposite end of the court for a soft dunk. That carried a loud statement for Piston’s fans, the statement being is that this rookie is showing us glimpses of his potential and how he can affect the game without even scoring.

Doumbouya was not as hot shooting the ball, unfortunately, going 1-6 in the first quarter, but his hustle is the spark that ignited the fire that Detroit played with for most of the first quarter and the rest of the first half. He ended the first half with 2 points, 6 rebounds and 1 steal, in 9 minutes of play and finished with a double-double overall.

Not bad ROOK.

Bruce’s FLU GAME:

You could hear the Detroit Pistons broadcasting team of Greg Kelser and George Blaha mention it during the first quarter of the game—they didn’t think that Bruce Brown would be available to play due to flu-like symptoms. Practically no one thought that he would play until he walked to the scorer’s table and checked himself into the game.

Brown didn’t just check into the game and float around aimlessly on the court. He showed-out in an offensive fashion, rather than his defensive style of play we are accustomed to seeing.

Brown went 4-4 on his first four attempts from the field and dished out two assists to boot in the first half. He showed decorum on offense and seemed totally in control whenever he had the ball in his hands. This helped the Pistons sustain their lead over the Clippers that they held for most of the first half, scoring exclusively around the rim.

On a night when Detroit is going against, arguably one of the deepest teams in the league, Brown was able to overcome his illness and provide a bit of a jolt to the Pistons efforts to simply compete with Los Angeles. With it officially being 2020, maybe we’re getting a new Bruce Brown for the New Year?

Pistons Lose Control During the Third Quarter:

After witnessing what could be debated as one of the most well-played halves the Pistons have put together all season, Detroit completely shot themselves in the foot at the start of the second half.

Even after learning that Clippers’ forward Paul George (23.6 PTS, 6.2 REBS) would not return to action for the rest of the game due to a sore hamstring, Los Angeles was undeterred. They unloaded on the Pistons by scoring 37 points in the third quarter to Detroit’s 16.

Probably the one person who wasn’t sad to hear that George wouldn’t return to play was his running mate Kawhi Leonard. Leonard immediately became the leading catalyst in the Clippers offensive surge against the Pistons. He finished the game with 18 points, six rebounds, and five assists— with most of his scoring coming during the third quarter.

The Pistons just couldn’t seem to get out of their own way. They were missing shots, taking low percentage jumpshots, and getting careless with the ball.

The Clippers are an uber-dynamic team on offense, ranked 5th in the league in points per game with 115. They house two of the league’s best two-way players in Leonard and George (both of whom are currently averaging over 20 points per game). They have one of the top coaches in the league as well in Doc Rivers. With a record of 25-11, they are already heavy favorites to be one of the teams in contention to make it out of the Western Conference. This was a team that Detroit could not take lightly and needed to limit their mistakes when playing.

Even though the Pistons attempted an admirable comeback in the fourth quarter, and their roster already dwindled-down due to various injuries keeping their best players out of this game, they still found ways to keep the Clippers from completely blowing them out. Injuries have been an unfortunate theme for Detroit all season but, on a night where they played one of their best halves of the season, they have no excuse as to why this game wasn’t in their grasp to be won.

(Featured image by Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press)


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