The game appeared to be under control. A 3-pointer by Rodney McGruder extended the Detroit Pistons‘ lead to 11 over the Cleveland Cavaliers, 97-86, midway through the fourth quarter. The Pistons had led for most of the fourth quarter, and were pulling away with a 17-4 run.
But the Cavs made the game interesting, using a late 10-0 run to briefly take a 103-102 lead with a minute to play. But Cade Cunningham’s four consecutive free throws down the stretch led the Pistons to a 106-103 victory at Little Caesars Arena. The win was Detroit’s second straight, albeit with seven days in between; the Pistons took down the Celtics, 112-111, in Boston on Feb. 16.
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Hamidou Diallo led the Pistons with 21 points and six rebounds coming off of the bench, and Cunningham added 17 points, seven rebounds and six assists. Marvin Bagley III had his best game as a Piston, finishing with 16 points on 8-for-13 shooting. Jerami Grant added 16 points.
The Pistons didn’t shoot well, knocking down just 40.7% from the field and 32.4% of their 3-point attempts. But they grabbed 13 offensive rebounds and produced 10 second-chance points, helping to overcome their shooting woes.
The Cavaliers were without All-Star point guard Darius Garland, who is dealing with lower back soreness.
Bagley, Diallo make difference off bench
Pistons general manager Troy Weaver was straightforward when asked why the Pistons traded for Bagley: The team lacked athleticism in the frontcourt, and Bagley can provide it.
“He’s an athletic big that rebounds, can really run the floor,” Weaver said. “And he can put the ball in the basket.”
Thursday was a showcase of that. Bagley scored 14 of his 16 points in the paint, and he thrived as a cutter and lob threat — something the Pistons haven’t had this season at center. Bagley looked far more comfortable compared to his first two games before the All-Star break, and it appeared he benefited from having a week to acclimate himself with coach Dwane Casey’s playbook.
Bagley entered midway through the first quarter, after Isaiah Stewart picked up three fouls in the first half and played just six minutes before halftime. Stewart and Bagley, along with Kelly Olynyk, give the Pistons three capable options at power forward and center. But Bagley is the best athlete of the three, and can function as a release valve for Detroit’s guards. They made a point to look for him on Thursday.
Diallo also had one of his better performances this season, giving Detroit constant energy and effort on a night where the starting five struggled to make a shot. He got off to a strong start by knocking down three 3-pointers in the first quarter, setting a season high. His third came at the first-quarter buzzer from a step ahead of the halfcourt line, cutting the Pistons’ deficit to six.
Bagley and Diallo combined for 37 points on 15-for-24 (62.5%) shooting. Stewart had 11 points on 4-for-6 shooting, but Detroit’s four other starters shot a combined 24.4% (11-for-45).
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