Detroit Pistons done in by Luka Doncic’s double-double in 131-113 loss to Dallas Mavericks

Detroit Free Press

The Detroit Pistons entered Wednesday’s game against the Dallas Mavericks with momentum. They had won three straight for the second time this season. But the Mavericks, one of the best teams in the Western Conference, were ultimately too much.

The Mavericks defeated the Pistons, 131-113, behind a 26-point, 14-assist, eight-rebound performance from Luka Doncic. Jalen Brunson added 24 points and six rebounds. Dallas shot 56.3% overall and 45.5% from 3-point range, leading for all but five minutes.

Cade Cunningham led the Pistons with 25 points, nine assists and seven rebounds, Isaiah Stewart scored 19 points (including a 3-for-3 mark on 3s) and grabbed 14 rebounds, and Saben Lee and Killian Hayes each scored 11 points.

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Cunningham-Doncic matchup delivers excitement

Toward the end of the third quarter, Doncic tried to drive right against Cunningham. But Cunningham maintained his defensive stance and forced Doncic to end his drive. Doncic then lost his dribble, and Cunningham, Lee and Jamorko Pickett triple-teamed him and nearly forced a turnover.

Several members of Detroit’s bench, as well as the crowd, stood up and clapped. On the final possession of the third quarter, Cunningham knocked down a stepback 3 with 0.1 seconds left to draw an even bigger reaction from the crowd. Doncic and Cunningham were the biggest stars on the floor, and the crowd was into the matchup, with Doncic as a player Cunningham has often been compared to.

Neither player shot well — Cunningham was just 7-for-19 overall, and Doncic was 8-for-21. But they both stuffed the stat sheet. It was Doncic’s first appearance at Little Caesars Arena, and he had many fans in attendance.

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Detroit’s two-way players step up

Coach Dwane Casey has prioritized getting an extended look at the Pistons’ unproven players late in the season. That includes the two-way contract duo of Jamorko Pickett and Braxton Key, who inked his deal on Sunday following a 10-day contract. Pickett logged 39 minutes against the Oklahoma City Thunder last Friday, and Key had appeared in Detroit’s past six games.

Both players delivered strong performances against the Mavericks. Key scored a career-high 14 points, knocking down five of six shots and three of five free throws. He has improved with each outing and has proven himself to be a solid all-around hustle player.

Pickett added 10 points, knocking down four of his five shots and two of three 3-pointers. It was his second time reaching double figures in scoring this season. With Kelly Olynyk, Marvin Bagley III and Luka Garza all in street clothes, Pickett and Stewart were Detroit’s only active players taller than 6-foot-8. Pickett checked in during the first quarter as Stewart battled foul trouble, and scored all of his points in the first half.

Contact Omari Sankofa II at osankofa@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @omarisankofa. The Free Press has started a new digital subscription model. Here’s how you can gain access to our most exclusive Pistons content. Read more on the Detroit Pistons and sign up for our Pistons newsletter.

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