Have the Detroit Pistons graduated from bad team to pesky spoiler?
It kind of looks like it.
The Pistons won again on Monday night, surviving a wild fourth quarter to outlast Trae Young and the Atlanta Hawks in overtime in handing them an 113-110 loss at Little Caesars Arena.
It’s the sixth win in eight tries for Detroit.
The star of the show, once again, was Cade Cunningham.
With his playmaking and scoring, the rookie made it look easy late as he assisted on or scored 15 of the Pistons final 19 points. He made free throws with the game on the line, he hit tough shots when Detroit could have folded in past games.
He flashed the total package against the Hawks with 28 points, 10 assists and 6 rebounds.
Detroit, win or loss, is making every game interesting. That’s all you can ask for in a season that has featured as many lumps as this one has.
Tonight featured another wild fourth quarter. The lead changed hands three times in the final 56 seconds as Cunningham twice gave the Pistons a one-point lead — first on a tough layup off an offensive rebound and another on two free throws after being found by Bogdan Bogdanovic with 1.6 seconds to go.
Atlanta tied the game on the ensuing possession as Marvin Bagley III fouled John Collins on a desperation lob. Collins split the pair to send the game to overtime.
Despite the foul, Bagley had a nice game with 19 points and 10 rebounds in 31 minutes, his most as a Piston. That big boost in playing time did not come under perfect circumstances, though.
Isaiah Stewart left the game in the first half after his knee/leg was rolled up on. He went straight to the locker room and did not return. They did say not he broadcast that the team did not think it was serious, but we’ll see how that looks tomorrow.
Butttt, all of the Isaiah-related news wasn’t bad.
Isaiah Livers played the best game of his young career with 9 points on 3/6 shooting from downtown. With Hamidou Diallo out due to a non-COVID illness, the door was open for Livers, and he kicked it open.
There’s nothing flashy about his game, but he’s got an ability to just fit in. He’s a good shooter. Good without the ball. Big enough to be a factor defensively. I like him. He’s a guy who looks like he would fit on any team.
Killian Hayes had a really strong night before taking a Jerami Grant knee to the groin in OT.
He looked for his shot early and set the tone for the bench in the first half, scoring 13 points to go with 6 assists. It was a rare night where you could see Hayes’ was confident. It’s good to see as this final stretch of games is big for him.
Determined, that’s the best way to describe some of these drives:
Livers big night and, really, the bench playing well, kind of threw a wrench into Saddiq Bey’s minutes. After scoring nine points in the first quarter, he sat almost all of the second. Not sure if it was defense related or just that Livers was playing that well, but Bey never regained his rhythm after that stint on the bench.
He played a bit in the fourth and OT, but missed all seven of his shots. Normally, that would be a bummer, but when those minutes are going to another youngster, you’re ok with it.
I’ve got to give Dwane Casey credit for this recent stretch. He’s faced a lot of criticism this year, some warranted and some not, but one thing I wanted to see out of this team down the stretch was for them to learn how to win.
Experience more close games. Make the right plays. Work your butts off.
That’s what made the end of last season so fun, the kids were playing and they were keeping games close until the end. That team, however, wasn’t talented enough or ready to win games. They just played hard enough to keep it close.
This team, however, with Cunningham leading the way, is proving to be good enough to steal some of these 50/50 games. When good teams sleep on the Pistons, they can’t expect to pull it out every time.
Obviously, despite the exciting stretch of basketball, this is still a bad team.
They aren’t winning anything of note this year, but they’ve proven that they aren’t going to fold up down the stretch, either. It presents an interesting dilemma: does a strong finish from Cunningham — one that leads to wins for the Pistons and maybe a 2022 NBA Rookie of the Year for him — make up the losses that yield ping-pong balls in the NBA Draft lottery?
I just know the Detroit Pistons are fun to watch right now, and we haven’t been able to say that in quite some time.