Final: Cade Cunningham, Pistons starters excel in victory against Bulls

Detroit Bad Boys

The Detroit Pistons could have either wilted or risen to the occasion one night after seemingly getting a win dislodged from them by a no-call on a Donte DiVincenzo tackle that led to a New York Knicks game-winning shot. Playing in Chicago less than 24 hours later, the Pistons still had plenty of fight in them — or the starters did, anyway.

Thanks to some truly excellent play from Detrot’s starting unit, the Pistons earned their ninth win of the season, beating the Chicago Bulls 105-95. Oh yeah, and it didn’t hurt that Chicago made just two of 29 three-point attempts, the worst 3-point shooting night in the NBA since November of 2014.

It was the first time the Pistons had held an opponent to fewer than 100 points since holding the Charlotte Hornets to 99 points in the season’s second game.

This victory belongs to the staters, most notably Cade Cunningham, who has really taken his game to another level. Detroit’s lead guard scored 26 points to go with five assists and five rebounds. That is a typical Cade night. But it’s not often Cade is able to get his numbers on just 13 shot attempts. Cade is starting to understand when how and when to attack, and how to get his teammates quality looks. He also, mercifully, got to the line seven times, making five free throws. His defense, while not great, has also taken a big step forward since the calendar turned to 2024.

Isaiah Stewart played his first game since injuring his ankle and serving a three-game suspension. He looked rusty early, missing his first four three-point attempts. But he started to find his groove in the second half and he played some quality defense.

Ausar Thompson played his typical brand of stifling defense, though he had some trouble with DeMar DeRozan’s expert old-man game on occasion. He also was able to pick his spots to score near the rim. Fittingly, the backbreaking shot on a night when the Bulls couldn’t make anything from deep was a Thompson corner 3-pointer in the game’s final minutes.

Jalen Duren had a 14-point, 10-rebound double-double and Jaden Ivey scored 15 points on just seven shots and blazed down the floor to take advantage of unset Chicago defense on a number of occasions.

Those were your starters, and for the most part, that is where the superlatives end. The bench, save for some late-game heroics from Simone Fontecchio (a starter who was displaced by Stewart’s return to the lineup). In a game where four Pistons starters were +23 or +24, four Detroit bench players were -13 or -14.

The lowlights were no clearer than whatever the hell you want to call what James Wiseman was trying to do on the court. His defense was an abject disaster. He had such poor positioning on rebounds that he almost single-handedly handed former Piston Andre Drummond a 20-point, 11-rebound night. However bad you think it was, it was worse.

Worse, Monty Williams is still firmly committed to all-bench units, and when there was a starter on the floor, it was often either Thompson or Stewart — certainly not players you trust to help facilitate a functional offense.

That led to a lot of standing around with players seemingly daring the others to fulfill the role as playermaker. Malachi Flynn tried and it led to plenty of missed threes. Quentin Grimes tried and it led to plenty of missed shots.

Luckily, this is a night where the Pistons starters had enough to bail out their teammates and their head coach who made it all happen in the first place.

The Bulls were led by a pair of 25-spots from DeRozan and Nikola Vucevic. Chicago was able to stick around not only because of an inept Detroit bench but because of our one true constant during this cursed Pistons season — turnovers.

Detroit committed 20 turnovers — plenty of them so heinous you wanted to cover your eyes — and it led to 25 Chicago points. The Bulls were +19 in points off turnovers and +12 in fastbreak points.

The victory means that the Pistons have the same number of victories as the Washington Wizards and two fewer than the San Antonio Spurs. Perhaps someday soon, we won’t be able to say the Pistons are the worst team in the NBA.

We can dream, can’t we?

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