Detroit — For the second time in their last three games, the Pistons played a close one with the Boston Celtics. Right before the All-Star break, they went into Boston and earned a tough win in the final minute.
This time, the Pistons couldn’t hold on down the stretch.
The Celtics used a 15-2 run midway through the fourth quarter to take their largest lead of the game and held on for a 113-104 victory on Saturday afternoon at Little Caesars Arena.
Cade Cunningham had 25 points and seven rebounds, Marvin Bagley III 14 points and four rebounds and Saddiq Bey 13 points, seven rebounds and three assists for the Pistons (14-46), whose two-game winning streak ended.
“I liked three-and-a-half quarters of the way we played, but that one stretch where it was 22-8 (at the start of the fourth quarter) and missed open shots, you’re not going to beat anybody shooting 25% or 26% from 3-point line,” Pistons coach Dwane Casey said.
“You’ve got to make your open 3s and we created them. Guys stepped in with conviction and guys normally make them, but, some of the things that we did defensively are on us, our defensive mistakes.”
The Pistons had an 82-78 lead entering the fourth quarter, but Grant Williams (13 points) converted a three-point play and added two free throws on the next trip. The Pistons later jumped ahead, 88-85, with a lay-in by Cunningham and a steal and dunk by Killian Hayes, but Boston steamed ahead with a big run, including a 3-pointer and a drive by Payton Pritchard (19 points and six assists and a 3-pointer by Jaylen Brown (27 points).
The Celtics (36-26), who have won 10 of their last 11, ended the run with a jumper by Al Horford and a 3-pointer by Jayson Tatum (26 points, 11 rebounds and six assists), for a 97-90 lead with 5:45 left.
Cunningham tried to spark a rally with six straight Pistons points, but the Celtics kept pace. After Cunningham’s last two free throws, Cory Joseph (15 points and four rebounds) hit a 3-pointer to get within 105-99 at the 2:46 mark, but Brown countered with a drive and the Celtics held on.
“It was a hard-fought game. They are a hell of a team, and we know that. We played hard and we gave ourselves a chance, we just made a couple mental mistakes,” Joseph said. “Obviously, a loss is a loss, but I think this loss tonight was different than the ones we were having earlier in the season. So, there is progress there. We just have to keep our heads up and continue to work.”
The Pistons played the second half without sixth man Hamidou Diallo, who was ejected for making contact with an official. Bagley left the game because of an ankle injury and Cunningham had foul trouble throughout the game, limiting him to 27 minutes.
“I just told Cade we need him in the game. We don’t need cheap fouls, just reaching and fouling just to be fouling,” Casey said. “He’ll learn because we need his offense; we need his playmaking. We don’t need him to sit over there next to the coaches (on the bench).”