Detroit — After a brutal road trip that ended with three consecutive losses of nine points or more, the Pistons remained competitive in Wednesday’s game with the Atlanta Hawks until waning seconds of the fourth quarter.
Bojan Bogdanovic drained back-to-back 3-pointers, including one as he was fouled for a four-point play, to bring the Pistons within one point of the Hawks. However, Trae Young was fouled on the ensuing possession and knocked down two of his 16 free throws to increase Atlanta’s lead to three with just over a minute left.
Unfortunately for the Pistons, Saddiq Bey missed both free throw attempts that would’ve brought Detroit within one point. The Hawks increased their lead to five after a layup by John Collins and Bogdanovic made one more 3-pointer to make it interesting, but it wasn’t enough as the Pistons dropped their fourth straight game in a 118-113 loss.
Wednesday’s loss brought the Pistons to 0-4 in their two sets of back-to-back games this season.
Cade Cunningham’s full offensive repertoire was on showcase as he finished with 26 points, seven rebounds and six assists. His mid-range shot was clicking on all cylinders. He was able to execute dribble-pull-ups, stepbacks and finish at the basket — most times through contact. He even knocked down his first 3-pointer of the night. His magic ran out in the fourth quarter as he went scoreless on 0-for-3 shooting from the field.
It was apparent that it was Cunningham’s night as he connected on a stepback 15-footer from the baseline over Hawks wing Justin Holiday with 0.2 seconds left before the halftime buzzer. That marked 22 first-half points for Cunningham as he held his follow-thru after the ball ripped through the net.
“Just to be aggressive,” Cunningham said after the game. “That’s how I wanted to come into the game. Kind of impose my will and take what the defense gave me. My teammates kept looking for me. They wanted me aggressive, so I just came in that way.”
With Ivey unavailable due to a non-Covid illness, Pistons coach Dwane Casey inserted veteran guard Cory Joseph into his regular starting group of Cade Cunningham, Saddiq Bey, Bojan Bogdanovic and Isaiah Stewart.
However, Joseph picked up two early fouls less than two minutes into the game and Killian Hayes checked into the game. Shortly after that substitution, Pistons forward Bojan Bogdanovic was assessed a technical foul after not getting his way on a call after he was brought to the ground attempting a shot.
That must’ve been what Bogdanovic needed to find his offensive rhythm because he scored seven straight points for the Pistons, joining Cunningham in a two-man offensive clinic as they kept Detroit afloat in the first half. He reached the 30-point mark for the first time this season, finishing with a team-high 33 points, two rebounds and three assists.
Cunningham and Bogdanovic weren’t handling the scoring load by themselves. After an offensive struggle on Tuesday against the Wizards, Saddiq Bey bounced back with a better shooting night of 17 points along with four rebounds.
Jalen Duren finished with seven points and nine rebounds off the bench. None of his points were more important than the ones he scored in the fourth quarter – a flip layup to give the Pistons a 96-95 lead with eight minutes left and a breakaway dunk for another one-point lead with 6:29 left in the game.
The Pistons were down by as many as 12 points in the first half, but roared back due to the hot shooting of Bogdanovic and Cunningham.
Hawks All-Star guard Trae Young went the majority of the game without making a 3-pointer, but made his living by getting inside the paint and to the free-throw line. He had a team-high 35 points and six assists while making 16-of-17 from the stripe. He only made one of his seven attempts from beyond the arc.
Hawks forward John Collins also made his mark inside the paint with 19 points and 11 rebounds. Deandre Hunter added 17 points and three rebounds.
The Pistons will get an opportunity to run it back, possibly with Ivey in the lineup, against the Hawks on Friday, which will also mark the return of the Pistons’ nostalgic teal jerseys.