Pistons vs. Cavaliers preview: Detroit and Cleveland tangle in first game after All-Star break

Detroit Bad Boys

The Cleveland Cavaliers are finally back.

And this time, they’re back without LeBron James at the helm.

The Detroit Pistons are chasing what the Cavaliers have achieved, success with a young core that has lead to not moral wins, but tangible wins in the standings. Cleveland rebuilt the right way. They finally got it right. They drafted well, made savvy trades and now appear primed to be a nuisance in the playoffs.

They are what we all hope the Pistons can be in 2-3 years.

Game Vitals

When: 7 p.m. ET
Where: Little Caesars Arena, Detroit, Michigan
Watch: Bally Sports Detroit
Odds: Pistons +6

Analysis

The Pistons return from the All-Star break revitalized, in some ways.

Cade Cunningham put on a show in Cleveland over the weekend, winning Rising Stars MVP honors while putting together a respectable showing on All-Star Saturday. The same can be said about Saddiq Bey and Isaiah Stewart in the Rising Stars game.

It’s hard to call it momentum, but it kind of feels like momentum. Good things do not, and have not, happened to this franchise much in recent years. However, they just beat the red-hot Boston Celtics to end the first half and their centerpieces had a big weekend in the All-Star festivities.

Now, they’ll try and keep it going against a Cavs team that they just beat a month ago.

This will be a much thinner version of that team as star guard Darius Garland as well as Lauri Markkanen and Caris LaVert are out with injuries tonight. Cleveland still boasts their twin towers of Evan Mobley and Jarret Allen as well as Kevin Love off the bench.

Now, you’d think that size would give the Pistons problems, since it seems like all size does, but Stewart has handled that trio well in two matchups this season.

I’m interested to see if Kelly Olynyk — coming off his best game in weeks against Boston — can keep it rolling against a team with waves of size. I’ll be watching Marvin Bagley III closely in his third game with Detroit, specifically in those bench-on-bench stretches where he can get matched up with Love. That’s an area the Pistons can, and should, attack.

Cunningham didn’t shoot it well last month agains the Cavs, hitting just 6 of his 21 shots, but he did finish with his second triple-double of the season. He’ll again have to deal with Isaac Okoro, but I think he’ll shoot the ball better.

Buttt, what I’m most interested in seeing tonight is what Killian Hayes can do — now, and over the rest of the season.

The Cavs aren’t great against point guards normally, and the likely duo of Rajon Rondo and Brian Goodwin won’t scare anyone. However, Killian’s inconsistency and inability to stay out of foul trouble have been maddening lately.

After looking so good with 11 points and 12 assist (and only one turnover!) on 5-of-9 shooting (abeit) in an ass kicking against Charlotte Hornets, he followed it up with just 4 points and 5 assists in his final two games before the break.

Cory Joseph wasn’t even been good in those games: Hayes was just that bad.

I don’t the issue. I don’t know the solution. Honestly, it’s the most annoying thing about this team right now.

It’s annoying to hear people who want to cut bait on him now when he has no value.

It’s annoying to hear people load up on excuses, essentially saying that nothing is his fault, that he’s a victim of Dwane Casey… or Troy Weaver… or the refs… or his teammates. I don’t know, it changes every game.

I just want to see Killian show something. Anything. Find consistency. Adapt to a role. Do your job well on a day to day basis. That’s my main critique — he has not been able to adapt to playing without the ball in his hands. That’s gotta change, and it starts tonight.

Projected Lineup

Detroit Pistons (13-45)

Cade Cunningham, Cory Joseph, Saddiq Bey, Jerami Grant, Isaiah Stewart

Cleveland Cavaliers (35-23)

Rajon Rondo, Isaac Okoro, Dean Wade, Evan Mobley, Jarret Allen

Question of the Day

Which Pistons player will you be focusing most on over the final stretch of the season?

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