No Cade Cunningham, poor outside shooting dooms Detroit Pistons in 121-112 loss at Knicks

Detroit Free Press

Without Cade Cunningham, the Detroit Pistons were at a disadvantage against the New York Knicks on Friday. But despite trailing by 17 with 4:40 to play in the third quarter, the game nearly went down the wire.

The Pistons outscored the Knicks, 32-27, in the final period and cut the deficit to four, 114-110, with 1:20 remaining after a pair of free throws by Bojan Bogdanovic. But a late 3-pointer by Immanuel Quickley ended any hopes of a comeback win, as the Pistons fell to the Knicks at Madison Square Garden, 121-112.

RJ Barrett (30 points), Jalen Brunson (26 points, seven assists) and Julius Randle (21 points) carried New York to victory. Bogdanovic led the Pistons with 25 points, and Alec Burks added 17 points off of the bench in his season debut. Isaiah Stewart had 13 points, eight rebounds and two blocks, Hamidou Diallo had 13 points, and Killian Hayes finished with 11 points, seven assists, six rebounds and four steals.

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Cunningham missed his first game of the season with left shin soreness, and it’s unclear if he’ll return for Saturday night’s home game against the Boston Celtics. The Pistons shot just 22.6% from 3 (7-for-31) and 75.6% (31-for-41) at the free-throw line. A bright spot was Detroit’s bench, which scored a season-high 53 points.

Burks lifts second unit in season debut

The Pistons needed Burks. The veteran sharpshooter missed all of training camp, preseason and Detroit’s first 12 games while recovering from a left navicular fracture. A career 10.6 points per game scorer and 38% outside shooter, Burks was primed to give the Pistons’ struggling second unit (25.1 points per game, 29th in the NBA) a boost when he returned.

He did just that on Friday, scoring 10 points in the first half. His first bucket was a catch-and-shoot 3-pointer with 5.4 seconds left at the end of the first quarter that cut Detroit’s deficit to two, and he added a short midrange jumper and five made free throws in the second quarter.

Toward the beginning of the fourth quarter, he finished a floater through contact to bring the Pistons within 10 points. On a night where the Pistons simply couldn’t hit enough shots, he did his part to keep them within striking distance. And he had significant help, as he, Hayes, Isaiah Livers and Hamidou Diallo combined for 52 of the bench’s 53 points.

Livers found his groove in the fourth quarter, scoring all 11 of his points in the period while knocking down 3 of 4 3-point attempts. Dwane Casey trusted his bench in the fourth quarter, as Hayes and Livers played the entire period and Burks finished the period.

Hayes steps up with Cunningham out

The extent that Cunningham’s sore left shin bothered him during his four-point, 1-for-11 overall shooting performance against the Celtics on Wednesday isn’t known. But the Pistons decided to hold him out of Friday’s game against the Knicks, marking the first time this season he’s missed a game.

Cory Joseph replaced Cunningham in the starting lineup, but he didn’t play much because of foul trouble. He picked up two in the first 63 seconds of the game, leading to an early appearance for Hayes. Joseph got his third foul 11 seconds after checking in midway through the second quarter, and his fourth foul toward the beginning of the fourth quarter after closing out too hard on a Brunson 3-pointer.

It created plenty of opportunity for Hayes, who was aggressive once again after scoring a season-high 16 points on Wednesday. He scored all 11 of his points in the first half, but helped Detroit’s late rally with four fourth-quarter assists.

The third-year guard appears to have hit some momentum after an ice-cold start to the season, tallying 27 points in his last two games after scoring 32 in his first 11.

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

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