Detroit Pistons fall to Pacers, 124-115, despite strong finish by Cade Cunningham

Detroit Free Press

INDIANAPOLIS — Cade Cunningham found himself in a position Saturday he saw often as a rookie last season — helping the Detroit Pistons mount a fourth-quarter rally.

Despite being in control of the game early on, the Pistons lost a 14-point lead and entered the final period facing an 88-79 deficit to the Indiana Pacers. Cunningham had struggled up until that point, but found his rhythm late.

Unfortunately for Detroit, it was too late. Cunningham scored 12 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter and added seven more points via his four assists. But the Pistons were unable to slow a hot-shooting Pacers team and lost, 124-115, at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis to fall to 1-2 on the season.

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The Pistons built a 24-10 lead midway through a strong first quarter in which they shot 47.8% overall, made six of 12 3-point attempts and held the Pacers to 33.3% shooting. They fell apart afterward, shooting just 38.7% overall on the night and allowing Indiana to win the rebound battle, 59-53, and shoot 43.1% from the floor. It was a poor defensive showing for Detroit, especially in the second half.

Bennedict Mathurin, the sixth pick of the 2022 draft, led all with 25 points and made five of eight 3-point attempts. Tyrese Haliburton added 23 points and 10 assists. Cunningham led the Pistons with 22 points, Saddiq Bey had a double-double with 20 points and 11 rebounds and Isaiah Stewart (11 points, 16 rebounds) and Jaden Ivey (17 points, 11 rebounds, five assists) also had double-doubles. Bojan Bogdanovic added 16 points.

Cunningham shot just 3-for-12 overall through the first three quarters before attempting to spark Detroit’s comeback late. He made five of seven attempts in the fourth, dished three assists and produced 19 of the Pistons’ 36 points in the period.

Jaden Ivey makes big plays in return to Indiana

It was a road game for the Pistons, but Ivey got a homecoming welcome during pregame introductions. He was born and raised in South Bend, Indiana, about 150 miles north of Indianapolis and was a two-year standout at Purdue. His mom, Niele, was a former player and longtime assistant coach at Notre Dame before succeeding Muffet McGraw. The Ivey’s are Indiana basketball royalty, and Jaden had a lot of fans in the arena.

He did his part to keep the Pistons in a game that slowly slipped away after the first quarter, scoring eight of his 17 points in the third quarter while knocking down a pair of 3-point attempts. It was a poor quarter for Detroit, which shot 7-for-23 overall and committed six turnovers in the period.

Ivey continued his efficient ways after a strong first two games in which he scored 36 points on a combined 14-for-27 overall shooting, with 13 assists against six turnovers. He shot 6-for-13 overall on Saturday and 2-for-3 from 3. On a night where the Pistons struggled to find consistency on offense, he did enough to keep it a competitive game.

Isaiah Livers returns

The Pistons missed Livers. The 6-foot-7 forward missed Detroit’s first two regular season games with a sore hip. He could’ve played during Friday’s road loss to the New York Knicks, Dwane Casey said before the game, but they exercised caution instead. Assuming he has no further injury setbacks, he could emerge as a rotation staple soon.

Livers finished with eight points in about 16 minutes of action. He made two of his three 3-pointers. The first extended Detroit’s lead to 12 with 45 seconds left in the first, and came after a crisp drive-and-kick pass to the corner from Killian Hayes. The second cut Detroit’s deficit to seven toward the end of the third quarter. His floor-spacing and defensive timing are needed for a Pistons second unit that’s struggled at times through the first week of the regular season.

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