The Heat took a nine-point lead in the second quarter while Max Strus was torching nets, and it looked like it was going to be more of the same. But Detroit fought to keep it close and eventually took the lead for good halfway through the third quarter after four straight points from Killian Hayes.
It wasn’t a banner night for the reigning No. 1 overall pick. Miami made a conscious effort to take Cade Cunningham out of the game from the tip. The rookie saw trap after trap when he operated out of the pick-and-roll. To his credit, he rarely forced the action in those situations but instead gave what the defense presented.
Cade ended the game with only 4 points and had the same amount of turnovers, though two of those were the result of late-game scrambling from the Heat. He did add 10 assists, a number that would have been better had the Pistons not shot 25 percent from deep. Cunningham also dealt with foul trouble throughout the game, some of it a result of some interesting officiating.
The biggest beneficiary of the constant traps was Hamidou Diallo, who was a frequent recipient of the initial pass. Rather than settling for threes he wasn’t comfortable with, he attacked the scrambling Heat defense and finished well at the rim to the tune of 15 points on 10 shots.
Saddiq Bey added some nice minutes as a secondary playmaker, scoring 26 points on 13 shots. He continued his trend of looking more comfortable in deciding how to attack advantage situations. His ten free throw attempts were a direct result of being more decisive in those spots.
Trey Lyles added a nice performance in his 18 minutes and Frank Jackson made a couple threes, but the rest of the offense was largely tough to watch for most of the game.
The other side of the floor was a completely different story.
Detroit has been less than competitive defensively lately, but they brought some A+ effort in the win tonight. Four team steals and two blocks don’t jump off the page, but their rotations were crisp, the young guards and wings didn’t give up much dribble penetration, and the general court awareness was at a much higher level than in recent games.
It’s only one win, but it has to be a big relief for the locker room to end the long losing streak. And they followed a blueprint that Detroit fans saw much of last year. Defend well, take what the defense gives you on the other end, and compete for 48 minutes. Hopefully, for the sake of a young team’s development, it will be something to build upon.
- Detroit won the rebounding battle (47-39) for a change. Isaiah Stewart led the charge but it was a great team effort in that respect.
- Saben Lee struggled and Cory Joseph saw some time. The Joseph minutes were probably just due to Cade’s and Killian’s foul trouble but it’s something to keep an eye on.
- Luka Garza saw some early minutes but a strong game from Lyles kept him on the bench in the second half. Some of that might be PJ Tucker’s injury. Pistons need to start seeing what Garza can bring in longer stretches and they certainly could use some bigger lineups.