Detroit Pistons overcome dead legs, defeat Indiana Pacers for 5th win in 7 games

Detroit Free Press

On Friday, the Detroit Pistons played a game that could’ve easily been a schedule loss.

It was their fifth game in seven nights, and second game in a row after defeating the Toronto Raptors on the road Thursday.

After a hot start Friday at Little Caesars Arena, the Pistons started to teeter off. The Indiana Pacers rallied back from a 15-point deficit, taking the lead midway through the third quarter. Detroit’s offense slowed to a crawl, scoring 65 points in the first half but 46 in the second half as ball movement became sloppier and turnovers mounted.

MORE: What’s fueling Pistons’ surge? Growth and improved synergy from their big 3

For most of the season, the Pistons haven’t been able to pull out wins in these situations.

But Friday, they did just that. Back-to-back 3-pointers by Cade Cunningham and Saddiq Bey tied the game at 105 with 1:40 remaining, and Cunningham gave the Pistons the lead for good with a clutch layup 31 seconds later.

The Pistons (17-47) defeated the Pacers, 111-106, to tally their second win in a row and fifth win in seven games. Bey led the Pistons with 25 points, Cunningham added 20 points and nine rebounds and Marvin Bagley tallied 18 points and eight rebounds off of the bench.

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Marvin Bagley excels in return

The Pistons’ bench was in need of a scoring boost this past week. The trio of Jerami Grant, Bey and Cunningham have carried the starting five, but there’s been a dropoff whenever the second unit has checked in. It’s understandable considering two of the Pistons most consistent bench scorers, Bagley and Frank Jackson, have been injured.

Bagley returned from a three-game absence (left ankle sprain) on Friday, and his presence was felt immediately. It was his best performance in a Pistons uniform, and he showcased the various ways he can punish defenses. Beyond functioning as a release valve for Detroit’s shooters, Bagley can post-up and hit shots from midrange as well.

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Offense slumps after torrid start

The first 18 minutes of Friday’s win might’ve been the best opening stretch the Pistons have played all season. They finished the first quarter with a 39-32 lead after shooting 65.2% overall, knocking down 5 of 6 3-pointers and dishing 11 assists against just two turnovers. They took a 55-40 lead with about eight minutes left to play before halftime and had knocked down nine of their first 10 3-pointers.

Bey and Cunningham played well before cooling off, and Bagley was Detroit’s only other player Friday who was able to pick up some of the scoring slack. A 20-8 Pacers run enabled Indiana to cut the deficit to three, 63-60, with 2:10 remaining in the second quarter.

A 10-0 Pacers run midway through the third quarter allowed them to take their first lead since the 7:29 mark of the first quarter, setting up a back-and-forth finish that ultimately ended in Detroit’s favor.

Contact Omari Sankofa II at osankofa@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @omarisankofa.

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