Detroit – Pistons guard Frank Jackson saw to it that another slow start by his team didn’t result in falling behind by so many points that there was no contest to be had.
Jackson (19 points) came off the bench Sunday night along with Trey Lyles (15 points) and Rodney McGruder four minutes into a game in which Detroit had yet to score.
Jackson kept his team alive, and rookie guard Cade Cunningham recovered from a scoreless first half by scoring 19 points and delivering 10 assists in 115-105 comeback victory over Cleveland that broke a four-game losing streak.
Cunningham had 10 rebounds, too, to record a triple-double and turn Little Caesars Arena into a party zone for Pistons fans. Cunningham hit two big 3-pointers down the stretch, including the dagger shot with a minute and a half to go for a nine-point lead.
Jackson scored 13 points in seven minutes in the first quarter, cutting a 15-point deficit to a mere two points. He scored on a finger roll drive a few minutes into the second half to cut it to one point, but the Pistons didn’t take a lead until the fourth quarter.
Saddiq Bey, scoring with his feathery outside shooting touch and on quick, flamboyant drives to the hoop, also stepped up big-time with a game-high 31 points. Forward Isaiah Stewart came alive in the fourth quarter to finish with 14 points and a game-high 12 rebounds.
Detroit (12-37) put it on the Cavaliers (30-20), who featured the balanced scoring and all-around games of point guard Darius Garland (24 points, seven assists), center Jarrett Allen (15 points, nine rebounds) and forwards Evan Mobley (18 points, nine rebounds) and Dean Wade (14 points).
Here they go again.
That’s what Pistons fans had to be thinking when their team found itself down, 15-0, at Little Caesars Arena one game after trailing by 20 after one quarter.
Cunningham had another slow start.
Two nights after missing his first 12 shots and scoring six points in Orlando, Cunningham missed his first 10 against Cleveland.
Cunningham, seconds after a timeout was called midway through the second quarter, stopped and swished a short shot. It seemed as if he simply needed to see the ball reaching the net, even with the game clock off.
Most of his shots didn’t come close to dropping, and he pleaded his case for a defensive foul after back-to-back shots down low missed. He took another shot near the basket that missed by over a foot.
Cavs coach J.B. Bickerstaff, prior to the game, mapped out his strategy to hold down Cunningham, who was averaging 16.0 points: “Keep size on him. Make him finish over the top of us, and just try to keep him out of the paint as much as we can.”
Finally, after making a pair of free throws to get in the scoring column, Cunningham drove past the 6-foot-11 Allen and Wade while dropping in a shot. He was fouled and added the free throw before making three consecutive field goal attempts.
Still, it was his playmaking that stood out most. None of Cunningham’s assists were prettier than a half-court bounce pass that hit Bey in stride before he scored and was fouled on what became a three-point play.
Lyles and Cunningham, standing at mid-court, smiled and pumped their fists in unison.
Seven-footer Mobley was drafted No. 3 overall, two spots behind Cunningham, and showed why he also has a great future.
Pistons coach Dwane Casey paid him this compliment two hours before tipoff: “He has every skill you look for in a big guy. Kevin Durant, I don’t know. I don’t want to put that kind of pressure on him. But it’s not too crazy of a thought to think about in that light.”
But, when all was said and done Sunday, it was Cunningham who stole the show.