Detroit Pistons fall to 1-3 after listless effort vs. Wizards in 120-99 loss

Detroit Free Press

WASHINGTON — After poor efforts against the New York Knicks and Indiana Pacers last week, the Detroit Pistons entered their third and final road game this trip in need of life.

They didn’t find any against the Washington Wizards.

Behind a 25-point night from Flint native Kyle Kuzma, the Wizards blew out the Pistons at Capital One Arena, 120-99. Detroit (1-3) struggled to move the ball, tallying just 12 assists against 13 turnovers, and shot 40.9% overall. Washington pummeled them inside, shooting 65.4% inside of the arc.

Bojan Bogdanovic led the Pistons with 25 points on 8-for-13 overall shooting and 4-for-7 shooting from 3, and Cade Cunningham added 19 points on 7-for-19 overall shooting. Isaiah Stewart tallied a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds, and Jaden Ivey finished with 11 points and four assists.

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Cunningham struggles to find rhythm

It hasn’t been easy going for Cunningham. Outside of a strong fourth quarter against the Indiana Pacers, it hasn’t been a strong offensive start to the season for him. He entered the game shooting 39.2% (20-for-51 overall) and 7-for-20 (35%) from 3.

Dwane Casey and the Pistons haven’t expressed any worry about their franchise player — after all, it’s only four games into the season. But the Pistons have needed more from him as a scorer. He has moved the ball and taken care of it well, and his natural approach to the game has generally been to get his teammates going before he finds his own shot.

Thus far, the approach hasn’t worked.

Cunningham finished the first half with just five shot attempts. He adjusted in the second half, taking nine shots in the third quarter and five in the fourth. But he shot just 5-for-14 overall in the final two periods.

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The Pistons’ next 12 games include two contests against the Atlanta Hawks (Wednesday and Friday), two games against the Milwaukee Bucks, two games against the Boston Celtics and a game each against the Golden State Warriors, New York Knicks, Toronto Raptors and Los Angeles Clippers. Things could get rough, fast. They won’t have a chance if Cunningham doesn’t begin to resemble the player who finished third overall in Rookie of the Year voting last season.

Bogdanovic stays hot

Through the first week of the season, Bogdanovic has been exactly what the Pistons have needed him to be. Even by his standards, he has shot the ball well; 20-for-41 overall and 11-for-22 from 3 entering Tuesday. He has given the starting five some much needed consistency.

He was, once again, Detroit’s best scorer against the Wizards. For a significant part of the first half, it was fair to wonder if he would miss a shot all night. Bogdanovic started the game 5 of 5 from the floor, 4 of 4 from 3 and 1 of 1 at the free-throw line to tally 15 points in his first 12 minutes of action. He eventually cooled off slightly, making three of his remaining eight shots from the field.

Bogdanovic fixes a lot of issues the Pistons have struggled with on offense in recent seasons. He’s a knockdown shooter, and has a penchant for stepping into them in transition. Space isn’t a necessity for him — he’s knocked down a few with a defender’s hand in his face. And though he’s not quite a primary playmaker, he has made smart reads with the ball and does a good job taking care of it.

It hasn’t paid off in wins, but the Bogdanovic trade has been a clear win for the Pistons thus far.

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

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