Detroit — The Pistons came out of the All-Star break the same way they went into it — with a win. It wasn’t just a nail-biter, but another win over a playoff-bound team that didn’t match the Pistons down the stretch.
In the previous game, it was the Boston Celtics. This time it was the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Two impressive wins in two tries.
The Pistons opened the fourth quarter with a flurry and held on for a 106-103 victory over the Cavs on Thursday night at Little Caesars Arena. It’s just the third time this season that the Pistons (14-45) have won back-to-back games, and they don’t have a three-game win streak this season. They’ll look to do that Saturday when they face the Celtics in a rematch at home.
It’s the Pistons’ second win over the Cavs this season, and as Cleveland has improved immensely, they’ve become a template for the type of development the Pistons are trying to make themselves.
“To beat them a couple of times the way we have is a feather in our cap because they’re one of the top teams in the conference,” coach Dwane Casey said. “That’s our goal, where we’re trying to get to.”
Hamidou Diallo led the way with 21 points and six rebounds, Cade Cunningham added 17 points, seven rebounds and six assists and Jerami Grant 16 points. Rodney McGruder added 12 points, making all four of his 3-pointers.
After the Cavs (35-24) used a 10-0 run to move ahead on a free throw by Lauri Markkanen (22 points and six rebounds) with 1:01 left, Cunningham answered with four free throws in the final minute for a 106-103 lead with 28.1 seconds remaining.
The Pistons had to hold on and make a couple of defensive stops, including a late 3-point try by Evan Mobley (12 points and eight rebounds), and another by Brandon Goodwin (15 points and five assists) in the final seconds. Time ran out and Cunningham corralled the final rebound to preserve the victory.
The Pistons looked to be in control after Diallo capped the third quarter with their final six points, and Mobley had the last six points of the period for the Cavs. Kevin Love started the fourth quarter by splitting a pair of free throws, but the Pistons answered with 10 straight points, including a lob to Bagley from Kelly Olynyk and a drive by Diallo. McGruder and Grant hit back-to-back 3-pointers, for the Pistons’ largest lead to that point, 90-83.
Markkanen, who had 11 points in the fourth quarter, stopped the run with a 3-pointer, but the Pistons had another rally, with two free throws and a lay-in by Diallo, then a 3-pointer by McGruder, for an 11-point margin.
The Cavs were on the cusp of a double-digit lead in the second quarter, but Bagley had consecutive baskets, including a highlight-reel alley-oop from Cunningham, and Grant the half with finished with two free throws, for a 9-2 run ending the half, pulling the Pistons within 55-52.
“That was a great play; he threw it high, and I had to go and get it,” Bagley said.
Bagley made his home debut since his acquisition at the trade deadline, and Bagley was brought in to become a lob threat. He was happy with the reception he got and how he was able to impact winning.
“I loved it,” Bagley said. “It’s my first one in this building as a Piston and it’s great to have the fans on your side.”
The Pistons’ bench outscored the Cavs’, 53-35, with Diallo and McGruder combining to go 7-of-7 on 3-pointers and Bagley helping
“Hami and the second unit came in and really changed the game,” Casey said. “They sped up the game to the tempo that helped us.”