Flint Native Monte Morris Makes Pistons’ Debut in 113-106 Win Over Hornets

The Detroit Pistons were able to put together a stellar defensive fourth quarter and hold the visiting Charlotte Hornets to just 14 points in the final period to notch a 113-106 win in Flint native Monte Morris’ debut as a Piston on Wednesday, Jan. 24, at Little Caesars Arena.

In front of dozens of friends and family members, the Flint Beecher standout came into the game with just over four minutes left in the first quarter and knocked down his first shot attempt of the season, a 26-foot catch-and-shoot three pointer that brought the Pistons to within one point, 24-23

“Last night, it was hard for me to sleep. I’m like ‘Man, how’s my first bucket gonna be? Am I even gonna get a bucket?’ I just read the defense,” Morris said.

“I came off, they kind of messed up the coverage. I just let it go. I trust my work. I was comfortable shooting the ball. My legs weren’t as fatigued as I thought they would be, so that’s a good sign. I’ve just gotta stay on top of my game and be ready to perform when my number’s called.”

In total, he scored seven points on 3-of-4 shooting, and tallied three rebounds and three assists in 11 minutes of action.

“I feel good. I was so hype on the bench. It was hard for me to be like that when I was in street clothes because I couldn’t really go out there and play with guys, so when I was in a jersey, I didn’t want to sit down,” Morris said with a huge smile on his face.

“It’s fun and it’s contagious (to win with his hometown team). You’re happy for the next guy and you’re not worried about yourself. I feel like it’s gonna be plenty more wins to come and we’re just getting closer, and once we get Cade (Cunningham) back, I feel like it’s gonna be a whole different dynamic of a team.”

While Morris’ return was a looming storyline – especially with fellow Flint Town native Miles Bridges playing across the court from him as a member of the Charlotte Hornets – it was the performance of Pistons forward Bojan Bogdanovic that propelled Detroit to the win.

Bogdanovic poured in a game-high 34 points on 12-of-23 shooting, including five made three pointers. He also hit a game-tying three-point bucket to knot the game at 106-106 with 1:46 remaining. It was part of the Pistons’ 13-2 run to close the game.

Afterward, Pistons Head Coach Monty Williams said he’s been preaching to the team about the importance of closing the game strong like they did Wednesday night.

“Yesterday we talked about competing, poise, execution, and we’ve done those three things, but we haven’t been able to close. And we closed tonight,” Williams said. “I thought AB (Alec Burks) was phenomenal when we got down two and it started to feel kind of funky. I just watch him with the group and he was like ‘We’re good. Just relax.’ And he comes right down and knocks down a corner three.

“With Bogey (Bogdanovic), 34 points, but the three that he hit off the pick-and-roll: I called one play, and he and (Burks) were like ‘Coach, let us run this,’ and I was like ‘Go ahead,’ and he comes right off and knocks down a three. That’s something that I think our young guys can learn from – the ability to read the game, communicate with the coach, then come down and make a play. It’s something that all good teams have, and something we have to put on the floor consistently.”

The contest was a back-and-forth match, with neither team taking a double-digit lead, and a game that saw 22 lead changes and 14 ties. The Pistons found themselves up by eight points late in the third quarter, 76-68, but Charlotte roared back on the shooting of their sensational rookie Brandon Miller.

Miller reeled off 12 straight points for the Hornets as they overtook the lead before closing out the third quarter up three points, 92-89. Miller finished the night with 23 points, seven rebounds, and four assists.

Bridges posted a 20-point, 10-rebound double-double, and LaMelo Ball, coming back from an injury, scored 17 points, but shot just 6-for-21 from the field and 1-for-8 from 3, and had four turnovers before fouling out late in the fourth on an offensive foul and a negated layup that would have brought the Hornets to within three points with 23.1 remaining in the game. Instead, the Pistons held on to a 110-106 lead and knocked down three free throws to ice the contest in the final 22 seconds.

“Coach put the word ‘close’ on the board the last two games. We just have to close games,” Morris said. “Today I was just trying to tell guys, I know we haven’t scored in a while, but it’s a one-point, two-point game. That just shows growth. I feel like we grew tonight.”

Outside of Bogdanovic, no other Piston scored more than 15 points, but the team got contributions from its starters and its bench en route to the win. Jalen Duren had 14 points and eight rebounds, while Isaiah Stewart had 11 points and eight rebounds. Killian Hayes had a solid all-around performance with six points, eight assists, seven rebounds, and just one turnover. He also had an assist on a Burks three-pointer that brought the Pistons to within a point, and another assist on a driving dump-off to Duren for a thunderous dunk that put the Pistons up 110-106.

The win over the Hornets was the Pistons fifth victory on the season, moving them to an overall record of 5-39. Charlotte fell to 10-32 on the season with the loss.

The Pistons will be back in action this weekend, with home games Saturday at 12 p.m. versus the Washington Wizards, and Sunday at 2 p.m. against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Sunday’s start was originally slated for later in the evening, but the tip-off time was changed after the Lions beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and found out that kickoff time was scheduled for Sunday at 6:30 p.m.

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