With a little over a minute to play in the fourth quarter, Cade Cunningham lobbed the ball to Hamidou Diallo for a one-handed dunk and a would-be dagger. Somehow, the ball didn’t go through the net.
They got it right the second time around, though. With 42 seconds left, Cunningham found Diallo cutting to the rim. Diallo finished the play, hammering home a two-handed dunk this time to help the Detroit Pistons leave Little Caesars Arena with a victory.
The Pistons (8-30) defeated the Orlando Magic (7-33) at home, 97-92, to snap a two-game skid. Diallo led the team with 17 points and six rebounds and iced the game with a pair of buckets late. In addition to the dunk, he tipped in his own missed layup with just under two minutes left to give Detroit a 93-90 lead. Trey Lyles finished with a 16-point, 13-rebound double-double off the bench, and Saddiq Bey added 16 points and six rebounds.
Michigan State alumnus Gary Harris led all scorers with 28 points for Orlando. Michigan alumnus Franz Wagner had nine points for the Magic.
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After offense goes cold, Lyles steps up
Following consecutive duds against the Hornets and Grizzlies on the road, the Pistons played a strong first half against the Magic. They shot 48.9%, assisted on seven of their first 11 baskets, pushed the ball in transition and defended with energy. The Magic shot just 32.6% during the first two quarters.
The Pistons played a dud of a third quarter, though. They were 7-for-21 in the period and began to fall apart defensively. Orlando used a 19-9 run to overcome an eight-point deficit and take its first lead of the night, 68-67, with 2:20 to play in the period after a 3-pointer from Chuma Okeke.
Lyles then took over in the fourth, scoring Detroit’s first four buckets of the quarter to give the Pistons am 81-75 advantage. His first two shots were dunks, with the second coming after Saben Lee beat nearly the entire Magic team in transition before dumping the ball off to Lyles. The big man then finished a layup through contact and added a midrange jumper.
The momentum boost was enough to allow the Pistons to lead for the entire fourth quarter despite their stumbles in the third.
In reduced role, Diallo continues to produce
Diallo’s brief stint as an offensive focal point wasn’t destined to last. With eight players in health and safety protocols two weeks ago, Diallo had the best scoring stretch of his young career. He tallied 93 points combined over three games, while taking a whopping 70 shots. Someone had to step up for Detroit.
He has returned to his usual reduced diet of shots now that Cunningham, Bey and others have returned to the rotation. But it’s a role Diallo thrives in. Saturday was a textbook example of what Diallo can do with and without the ball. He had a pair of dunks, the second off of a touchdown pass from Cunningham in transition. He and Cunningham forced a turnover on Harris that led to an easy layup for Cunningham. Diallo even knocked down a 3-pointer in the first quarter, his first make from outside in more than a week.
Diallo has also made subtle strides as a on-ball creator, which he also showcased during his prior three-game stretch. Twice in Saturday’s third quarter, he used a crossover to beat Mo Bamba off the dribble and get to the rim. Saturday was his 13th consecutive start, and he has turned himself into one of the most valuable players on the roster.
Contact Omari Sankofa II at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @omarisankofa. The Free Press has started a new digital subscription model. Here’s how you can gain access to our most exclusive Pistons content. Read more on the Detroit Pistons and sign up for our Pistons newsletter.