Detroit — Little Caesars Arena resembled the Palace Of Auburn Hills from of the late 1990’s era on Friday night as the Pistons donned their nostalgic teal jerseys for the first time since April 18, 2001.
With a court to match Detroit’s Classic Edition uniforms, a wave of history permeated throughout the arena as the Pistons faced the Atlanta Hawks for the second time in three days. Pistons greats Ben Wallace, Lindsey Hunter and Terry Mills, who all wore teal during their time with the franchise, were in attendance to watch their former team.
And it was an offensive battle between the team’s two point guards as Cade Cunningham and Trae Young swapped baskets for the majority of the game.
Cunningham scored a career-high of 35 points, along with nine rebounds and eight assists on 14-of-22 shooting from the field. However, his milestone night was spoiled by Young’s virtuoso scoring performance of 36 points and 12 assists, which led the Hawks to a 136-112 victory. It marked the Detroit’s fifth consecutive loss.
When asked if the loss takes away from a special scoring night, Cunningham agreed, especially since he believed the team was better equipped to manage the Hawks after Wednesday’s loss.
“Yeah, definitely. Especially a loss like that,” Cunningham said. “Last game, I feel like we had a good grip on who that team was and how we were going to bounce back from that game and then tonight, to fall like that, hurts.
“So, it’s cool and all but I’m not really focused on that as much. I think we need to more-so focus on how we can take the next step as a team and how we’re going to guard and all those things.”
Cunningham picked up where he left off during Wednesday’s loss to the Hawks and immediately found his rhythm on the offensive end. He connected on his first five out of six shots. He had two easy dunks in transition and three shots from midrange. Cunningham’s aggressiveness allowed him to get to the free-throw line.
He was also locked in defensively, as he was able to strip Trae Young for a breakaway dunk in transition. He ended the first half with 27 points, four rebounds and four assists. Foul trouble limited the second-year guard in the third quarter, and Young took advantage of that and Detroit’s lackadaisical defense.
Coming off a 35-point effort on Wednesday, Young doubled-down on his offensive efforts against the Pistons. He was more efficient from the 3-point line this time around, finishing 4-of-6 from beyond the arc. After connecting on 16-of-17 from the free throw line earlier this week, Young made 8-of-10 from the stripe on Friday. And every time he went to the line, he received a wave of boos from the crowd inside Little Caesars Arena.
Hawks guard Dejounte Young added 24 points, four rebounds and three assists. Onyeka had 14 points and seven rebounds off the bench.
Despite a horrid defensive and shooting night from the perimeter (6-of-30), the Pistons remained competitive until they gave up 37 points in the third quarter, which dug a hole that was too large to recover from.
Bojan Bogdanovic had 22 points and four rebounds. Isaiah Stewart added 17 points and eight rebounds.
Pistons rookie Jaden Ivey returned to the starting lineup after missing Wednesday’s game due to a non-Covid illness. And for the first time this season, coach Dwane Casey staggered the minutes between Cunningham and Ivey. Cunningham played all 12 minutes of the first quarter, while Ivey played the first five minutes before he was subbed out for Killian Hayes.
Ivey returned at the beginning of the second quarter to join Joseph, Diallo, Livers and Duren. He was able to get into somewhat of a rhythm by connecting from distance and getting to the free throw line. Ivey played until the seven-minute mark of the second quarter before Cunningham returned. The trend continued for the remainder of the first half. Ivey finished with 12 points, and two rebounds.
The Pistons will not get a break from here as they will host Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Saginaw native Draymond Green when the Golden State Warriors visit town on Sunday. The game is set for a 6 p.m. tip-off.