Dwane Casey’s said it several times this season — Cade Cunningham has the “it” factor. His rookie season has been dotted with clutch players.
He added to his resume Monday night.
Cunningham scored 15 points in the fourth quarter and overtime to lead the Detroit Pistons (18-47 overall) to a 113-110 overtime victory over the Atlanta Hawks. The win, Detroit’s sixth in eight games, was more evidence that the Pistons have turned a corner since their 112-111 win over the Boston Celtics right before All-Star break.
The back-and-forth game featured 30 lead changes through the first four quarters. But Cunningham led the Pistons in overtime with seven points, showing once again that he thrives in crunch time.
Cunningham led all scorers with 28 points and added 10 assists and six rebounds. Jerami Grant finished with 23 points, and Marvin Bagley III tallied 19 points and 10 rebounds. The Pistons did a great defensive job on Hawks superstar Trae Young, who finished with 14 points and 12 assists but made just five of his 20 shots.
A persistent possession by Cunningham gave the Pistons a 99-98 lead with 56 seconds left in the fourth quarter. He missed his first two attempts, struggling to finish over Hawks center Clint Capela, but managed to grab the offensive rebound and finish his third attempt over Capela as he was fouled.
Cunningham missed the free throw, though, and a pair of free throws by De’Andre Hunter gave the Hawks a 100-99 lead with 49.9 seconds remaining.
But the Pistons rookie was fouled on an inbounds pass with 1.6 seconds left and made both free throws for a one-point lead.
But Marvin Bagley (19 points, 10 rebounds) returned the favor on the other end, fouling Collins on a lob attempt with 1.6 seconds on the clock. Collins missed the first free throw but made the second to send the game into overtime.
In the extra period, Cunningham made a 3-pointer and then assisted on Bagley’s basket to give the Pistons a 107-102 lead they would not relinquish.
Jerami Grant added 23 points and Killian Hayes had 13 points and six assists.
Isaiah Livers plays his best game yet
The smile on Isaiah Livers’ face said it all. At the 5:27 mark of the fourth quarter, he knocked down his third 3-pointer of the night to give the Pistons a 90-88 lead.
Monday was Livers’ best performance in a Pistons uniform. It’s only a six-game sample size, but he showcased the outside shooting touch and high basketball IQ that led to the Pistons taking him in the second round of last year’s draft.
Livers made three of his six 3-point attempts, and finished with nine points, three assists and two rebounds in 25 minutes of action. He played nearly the entire fourth quarter, as the coaching staff decided to ride him over Saddiq Bey, who had an off night with nine points on 3-for-11 shooting.
Isaiah Stewart game with knee injury
With 5:21 to play in the second quarter, Capela drew a charge on Livers. As Capela fell to the ground, he bumped into Isaiah Stewart’s knee. Stewart was visibly in pain and limped off of the floor. He didn’t return, as Bagley replaced him in the starting lineup during the second half. The Pistons officially ruled Stewart out with a right knee injury.
It isn’t yet known how much time Stewart will miss, if any. But it’s a big blow; Stewart has firmly established himself as the Pistons’ best screener and rim protector this season. His absence will open more minutes for Bagley — who reached double figures on Monday, for the fifth time in six games with the Pistons — and Kelly Olynyk.
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