Cade Cunningham’s late baskets help Detroit Pistons to thrilling 127-121 win over Raptors

Detroit Free Press

The Detroit Pistons might have found their closer.

Cade Cunningham scored two clutch baskets in the final minutes, and Jerami Grant scored 14 of his team-leading 24 points in the fourth quarter to help the Pistons to a thrilling 127-121 win over the Toronto Raptors at Scotiabank Arena on Saturday night in Toronto. Seven Pistons scored in double figures.

The Pistons used a 15-6 run in the middle of the fourth quarter, on two 3-pointers each from Grant and Killian Hayes, and one from Josh Jackson, to take a lead they did not relinquish.

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With the Pistons nursing a two-possession lead and under 2:30 remaining, Cunningham (10 points) twice scored over the Raptors’ best defender in the stout OG Anunoby, the second on a sweet crossover and lefty finish off the glass for a 123-118 edge with 1:23 left. Cunningham finished 4-for-10 shooting, 2-for-8 on 3s and dished four assists with one turnover.

The Pistons set a new season-high with 34 assists, blowing away their previous high of 26.

Isaiah Stewart scored a season-high 20 points, and Hayes had his first career double-double with 13 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds.

Pascal Siakam led the Raptors (7-7) with 25 points, and Gary Trent Jr. poured in 18 of his 23 points in the first half. Toronto was without leading scoring Fred VanVleet (groin). Goran Dragic started in his place and scored 16 points.

The Pistons (3-9) return to Little Caesars Arena — where they are 1-4 — for a five-game homestand, starting Monday vs. Sacramento. They’ll then play every other day against Indiana, Golden State, the Los Angeles Lakers and Miami.

Hayes does it all

The second-year point guard is the team’s most polarizing player, but he showed the all-around game that helped make him a coveted player in the 2020 draft. One night after a career-high six steals in Cleveland, the 20-year-old Hayes — playing in his 37th career game — he had seven points, five rebounds, five assists and one block in the first half. He twice corralled offensive rebounds, moved the ball well and pushed in transition until the defense cut him off, then found Josh Jackson for an open layup.

He hit a catch-and-shoot 3 from the wing as the Pistons jumped to an 8-0 lead, then hit back-to-back 3s from the left corner on dishes from Grant early in the fourth quarter for a 105-100 lead. On the next possession, he dished to Josh Jackson for a pick-and-pop 3 and an eight-point lead. In the first half, Hayes showed rare burst and aggressiveness in the second quarter driving past Malachi Flynn at the top of the key for an uncontested layup.

Defensively, Hayes continues be a plus. He cut off a Goran Dragic drive and blocked the ensuing turnaround jump shot, and used good body positioning and active hands twice on double teams with Cunningham against Scottie Barnes, with the second resulting in a turnover.

Hayes may not end up being the pick-and-roll lead guard general manager Troy Weaver envisioned when selecting him No. 7 overall a year ago, but he is showing growth on both ends and looks like a rotation piece if he continues his ascent as a catch-and-shoot threat.

Center of attention

After averaging five points over the past six games and 6.9 points for the season, Stewart was finally a factor. He flashed his soft hands and got good looks out of smart post-up positioning in 32 minutes of play as he stayed out of the foul trouble that plagued him recently. Feeds from Cunningham and Hayes led to layups in the first half, then in the third quarter he had three consecutive scores at the rim, twice on dishes from Saddiq Bey. Stewart remained a presence on defense with a block and showed verticality at the rim on an Anunoby third-quarter drive resulting in an offensive foul.

In their second game without Kelly Olynyk (knee sprain), Trey Lyles came in at center for Stewart, after Luka Garza was first off the bench Friday in Cleveland. Garza did not play. Lyles played 17 minutes and was a plus-six on the court, scoring eight points and hitting all three field goal attempts. He also played a few minutes next to Stewart in the second quarter. The Raptors started Siakam at center, he had four offensive rebounds in the first quarter and seven total, as the Pistons allowed 15 offensive rebounds and were outrebounded 52-42.

Holding a 123-118 lead in the final minute, the Pistons allowed three straight Raptors offensive rebounds, but survived the possession unscathed when Grant finally rebounded and Bey (16 points) iced the game with two free throws.

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Health scares

Hayes and Cunningham both came out early in the third quarter with injury scares, but both returned to start the fourth quarter and closed the game.

Hayes exited less than three minutes into the third quarter after getting hit on his left thumb — shooting hand — which already caused him to miss a game and was wrapped in black tape. Hayes was immediately in pain and sat on the bench with a bag of ice on the thumb.

He tested the injury on passes in the tunnel, but came back in to start the fourth quarter.

One possession before Hayes’ mishap, Cunningham tweaked his right ankle after blocking a shot, though he stayed in for a few minutes before going to the bench. It is the same ankle that caused him to miss nearly a month of action in October. He briefly walked into the tunnel and was replaced by Cory Joseph, before eventually returning.

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