Detroit — When a team jumps to a lead of 20-plus points in the first quarter, it very often feels too good to be true. When it’s a young lineup, a lead that big feels even more fragile.
And so it was on Monday night, when the Pistons bulldozed their way to a 23-point lead in the first nine minutes, the question wasn’t whether they were going to beat the Cleveland Cavaliers, but whether they’d be able to come back after they gave up the lead.
The Cavs threatened, and took their first lead of the game in the fourth quarter, but the Pistons held on for a 109-105 victory at Little Caesars Arena.
Saddiq Bey had 20 points and five rebounds, Frank Jackson added 20 points and Isaiah Stewart 18 points and 16 rebounds for the Pistons (18-40). Killian Hayes had career highs of 12 points and nine assists in 33 minutes.
“We started with a lot of intensity and ball movement, but at the end of the game, the young guys executed both defensively and offensively,” Casey said. “We got stops when we needed to.”
Bey was a personal highlight reel in the first quarter, when he made six 3-pointers — including four straight — in staking the Pistons to the big lead. His last 3-pointer capped a 19-3 run over a four-minute stretch.
All five Pistons starters scored in that span, including Tyler Cook (12 points), who had his first career start.
The Pistons started with a fast pace, including a slew of alley-oops, and set the tone that they would be looking for opportunities at the rim for the remainder of the game.
“We’re playing to our strengths; we’ve got a lot of young, athletic guys,” Cook said. “It’s something we realized going into the game and it’s something we executed on early in the game.”
The Cavaliers (20-37) had a nice finish to the first quarter and trimmed the lead to 37-22 and 62-53 at halftime. Frank Jackson helped the Pistons finish the third quarter with a burst. Jackson had the Pistons’ final eight points of the period, including a dunk with 26.2 seconds left and a scooping lay-in at the buzzer, for an 84-76 margin.
Cleveland answered with the first seven points of the fourth quarter, with three free throws by Taurean Prince 11 points) and a hook by Isaiah Hartenstein to get within 84-83. The Pistons responded with a spinning drive by Jahlil Okafor and a pull-up jumper by Hayes.
The guard tandem of Collin Sexton (28 points and seven rebounds) and Darius Garland (23 points and six assists) kept the Cavs in the game. The duo scored their final 20 points of the game and the Cavs got their first lead of the game, 92-90, on a 3-pointer by Garland with 6:21 remaining.
The Pistons regained the lead with a drive by Hayes and two of three free throws by Bey, but Garland scored on a drive and made two subsequent free throws to take another lead.
Hayes, who had eight points in the fourth quarter, scored on a jumper and Sexton responded with a 3-pointer, for their biggest lead. Thee Pistons got another jumper from Hayes and an alley-oop from Hayes to Stewart, to go ahead, 100-99, with 3:04 left.
In the final minute, Frank Jackson was clutch again, scoring on a drive with 29.6 seconds left and a drive and score by Josh Jackson for a four-point lead. Sexton scored with 13.1 seconds remaining, but Josh Jackson put the game away with a pair of free throws with 11 seconds left, and the Cavs didn’t score again.