The Pistons were a completely different team the last time they were in Cleveland to face the Cavaliers, one of the teams general manager Troy Weaver mentioned when asked why he traded for 7-foot center James Wiseman.
The decision was made to compete with the most talented front courts in the Eastern Conference, and the Pistons were back in Cleveland on Saturday night for their fourth and final meeting of the season against the Cavaliers.
Despite being without Bojan Bogdanovic, Alec Burks, Isaiah Stewart and Jalen Duren due to injury, the Pistons hung around with the Cavaliers, at least for the first half. Cleveland flipped a switch after halftime and played like the contender, leading to a 114-90 loss for the Pistons.
The loss marked seven straight for Detroit — tying a season-high in consecutive losses — which dropped to 15-49. That mark stands as the worst record in the East and the second-worst record in the NBA behind the Houston Rockets.
Turnovers were the primary reason the Pistons dug themselves into a hole early. Detroit finished with 24 turnovers and Cleveland scored 28 points off those giveaways.
“Our defense, I thought was on point for the entire 24 minutes in the first half, which kept us in the game. Even though we turned the ball over, we were making the right basketball plays,” Pistons coach Dwane Casey said. “The third quarter … we kind of got back on our heels and you’re not going to beat anybody turning the ball over 24 times.
“The persistence and sustainability of our defense and our play has to grow, and that’s the issue with a young team. You kind of exhale at halftime and then they take off. They’re a good team. This team is going to be in the money at the end of the year.”
Cleveland led by 35 points. The dynamic backcourt of Darius Garland and Donovan Mitchell, who combined for 41 points, paced the Cavaliers offense. Jarrett Allen added 15 points and five rebounds, while Evan Mobley flirted with a triple-double with 16 points, 11 rebounds, six assists and four blocks.
Marvin Bagley III shouldered the load on offense for the Pistons, who were without a couple of their best scorers in Bogdanovic and Burks. He totaled 20 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks in another impressive performance since his return from a right hand injury. Hamidou Diallo added 14 points and seven rebounds. R.J. Hampton had his best game since joining the Pistons with 11 points and two assists.
Despite playing well, Bagley was adamant about winning instead of his individual performance.
“I don’t look at the moral victories. I want to win every game no matter what our record is,” Bagley said during his postgame press conference. “No matter what’s going on, I’m playing out there to win and the rest of the team is, too. It’s frustrating when you come up short, especially in a game like that when we played so well in the first half and kind of let go a bit in the second half against a good team like them.”
The Pistons will return to Detroit for a five-game homestand, which begins on Monday against the Portland Trail Blazers.