‘Big Three’ key to Pistons’ recent stretch of improved play

Detroit News

Detroit — The Pistons are in their best streak of the season, and everything points back to their team meeting on Valentine’s Day that could be the turning point. It’s not just statistically; they’re also passing the eye test with fewer turnovers and better ball movement as the hallmarks of their improved play.

It’s a big difference from the eight-game skid that preceded the meeting, but in their more recent stretch, it’s been their Big Three of Jerami Grant, Cade Cunningham and Saddiq Bey, who all have been playing better. That’s been a by-product of sharing the ball and not caring who is scoring.

That unselfishness is becoming contagious, and it’s showing in their play, both at home and on the road. Their last 19 games will go a long way in determining how they retool in the offseason and move into next season, when they could be a team sniffing the postseason.

This edition of News & Views looks at the Pistons’ improved play and the path ahead for the rest of the season.

News: The Pistons beat the Raptors on Thursday night and coach Dwane Casey improved to 9-3 against his former team.

Views: It’s an oddity, as weird as their 15-game losing streak to the Charlotte Hornets, which they ended this week as well. The Pistons swept the three-game season series against the Raptors this season and gave themselves a push ahead of their three-game home stand.

For the first 2½ quarters, it was one of the Pistons’ most impressive starts to a game, but they fell into a field-goal drought in the third quarter and had to hold on in the final seconds of the fourth quarter.

It’s been a boost in emotion for the Pistons, but Casey said that sometimes comes with some caveats.

“Emotions are a funny thing. I felt emotions got the best of us — they were making a run — and that’s another step two of learning to play with a lead,” Casey said, “because in the NBA a 13- to 15-point lead is nothing today.”

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News: The Pistons have won three of their last five road games.

Views: In their recent streak of wins, the Pistons haven’t had any been blown out, and there’s more togetherness with the way they’re handling themselves. There’s more pride and more will to do things the right way, which is an encouraging development in their journey.

It’s a positive, but it has to continue if it’s really going to mean anything. They’re catching some good teams by surprise, but the question is going to be about sustainability and being able to do it in bigger games, with championship-contending opponents.

Still, it’s a step forward.

“It shows our togetherness, more than anything,” Cade Cunningham said. “Toronto had all their fans, and they helped them get their momentum back.”

News: As Casey previewed last week, rookie Isaiah Livers has been some playing time in the past week.

Views: It’s been a long time coming because Livers has been going through issues with his foot injury that kept him out for most of the season, and then he had a setback that stalled his playing time. He looked good in his first game back, against the Charlotte Hornets on Sunday.

Livers had a pair of 3-pointers and looked to be in the flow of the game, with the speed of the game not seeming too fast for him. It’s going to be hard sometimes to find playing time, especially with Marvin Bagley III healthy and manning the backup forward or center spot. The development plan seems to be to give Livers bite-sized stints where he can adjust and ease his way into the league, which makes sense.

Rod.Beard@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @detnewsRodBeard

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