The Detroit Pistons surrendered 42 points and allowed the Oklahoma City Thunder to hit their first 15 shots in the fourth quarter en route to OKC’s 114-103 come from behind win at Little Caesars Arena. It was the Thunder’s first game since losing by an NBA record 73 points to the Memphis Grizzlies, and even after falling behind by 18, the team never gave up.
The Pistons stormed out of the gates quickly with early contributions from Saddiq Bey and Jerami Grant as Detroit built an early lead. But eventually those shots stopped falling, Detroit’s bench unit coughed up those comfortable margins to make the game feel uncomfortably close and then in the final frame the wheels completely fell off.
It was a shame too because Detroit saw a career-high 28 points from Cade Cunningham to go with 12 rebounds and five assists. He was 6-of-11 from deep and is starting to look more and more comfortable in the game. The weaknesses in Cade’s rookie season were still present, however. He turned the ball over six times including some ill-advised attempts, and he got to the free-throw line zero times.
Speaking of the free-throw line, it really ended up being a difference-maker tonight. If the free-throw disparity was a little less severe, Detroit’s lead would have been 25-plus, and even an undermanned bench could have held OKC at bay. Unfortunately, it was not a typical night from the charity stripe. Detroit was limited to six free throws on the night. The Thunder shot 30 times including 15 from Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. That minus-17 at the line loomed large as the game got tighter and tighter.
But I’m not sure how much you can blame the refs. The Thunder are just a more athletic, freakishly long team, and the players were cutting hard and finding open seams in Detroit’s defense. Gilgeous-Alexander and rookie Josh Giddey also were really able to fit the ball into nice windows. SGA in his first game back after missing time with a concussion had a game-high 30 points and 13 assists for the Thunder. Giddey added 12 points and five assists.
But the Thunder didn’t really take the game from Detroit so much as the Pistons gave it away. Their fourth-quarter execution on both ends was dreadful. While Cunningham was hitting some shots on the offensive end, he often drifted too far from his assignment and allowed Lu Dort to score 11 of his 28 points in the fourth quarter.
The Thunder hit their first 15 shots of the quarter, and SGA scored or assisted on the final nine of those 15 attempts. By the time OKC missed, an eight-point deficit at the start of the fourth was a 104-99 lead with 2:29 to play.
What could Detroit have done differently? Heck if I know. They just aren’t very good, and were playing without Cory Joseph and Hamidou Diallo so their already iffy bench was extra creaky. But it was the starts who really have to answer for the final collapse. Detroit had a four-point lead with all its starters out on the floor and six minutes left to put the game away. They simply couldn’t do it. They weren’t good enough.