Close but no cigar.
For three quarters, the Detroit Pistons looked to be on their way to another brutal loss.
This time, though, they rallied. Led by maligned point guard Killian Hayes, Detroit put together a huge fourth quarter, cutting a 22-point deficit to 5 before running out of gas in an 110-102 against the Philadelphia 76ers.
That was a rough one.
For the most part, Detroit’s losses this year have been easy to stomach. They weren’t really that much of a threat. When they play like crap, you can get over it. Tonight, for three quarters, it looked like one of those games.
They didn’t defend. They couldn’t shoot. It was not a good start, despite a close score.
Something changed in the fourth quarter. The Pistons’ bench started it, chipping away at a big Philly lead before Dwane Casey went to a lineup of Hayes, Frank Jackson, Saddiq Bey, Jerami Grant and Kelly Olynyk midway through the fourth.
That group took off, igniting a 24-7 run that saw the lead cut down to 107-102.
Killian was the catalyst, fully in control of the offense while putting Sixers guard Tyrese Maxey in jail defensively. Hayes pushed the ball. He made good plays. He got to the rim! This is all the good stuff we want to see more of. He finished with 9 points, 4 rebounds and 5 assists.
But the game was decided with 35 seconds to go. Hayes made another great drive to the rim in transition, hitting a layup that would have cut the Sixers lead to 107-104. However, Kelly Olynyk was called for an illegal screen that erased the basket.
It looked legit at first glance, but on replay, Olynyk had a Sixers defender draped all over him. There wasn’t a foul. He couldn’t do anything else. Judge it for yourself:
This is a silly foul call compared tot he standards we've set all night. If you back into a big to try and prevent the lob, you deserve that.— Halbridious (@Halbridious) October 29, 2021
This is a made layup in my book. pic.twitter.com/H9zIqJ3N8x
Either way, the Pistons gave up a pair of free throws and a prayer of a triple from Joel Embiid at the shot clock buzzer to put it out of reach. Embiid hitting a BS shot like that is what it’s like to have a superstar on your team—as Pistons fans have learned from watching others over the past decade or so.
Superstars like Embiid are good enough bail you out of trouble and win games.
Hopefully the Pistons have that in Cade Cunningham.
Detroit did get a huge effort in the fourth out of their rising sophomore in Bey. The former Villanova star, playing back in Philly with fans for the first time as a pro, scored just five points over three sleepy quarters.
He exploded for 14 points in the fourth, bailing the Pistons out with a number of big triples.
Outside of the big run late, it was a nondescript night.
Well, let me take that back: Luka Garza had an interesting second quarter.
The rookie and fan favorite has played a hell of a lot more than any of us expected early this year and... it hasn’t been great. Garza is slow, we know that, and if he’s going to be a negative on defense, he needs to be a plus offensively.
Tonight, he finally showed some life shooting the ball.
He battled with Joel Embiid and, at times, it looked like one of those slow, dinosaur centers from the early-2000s battling Shaquille O’Neal. Garza hit a pair of triples, though, giving the Pistons life. He even got in a little bit of trash talk at Embiid, who had a hilarious flop after Garza got physical after his first bucket.
The Pistons were still in the game then, and a big reason for that was the bench.
As the starters struggled to hit much of anything, it was the reserves that gave the Pistons a burst in the second and fourth. Trey Lyles impressed me with 9 points and 4 boards, scoring on an array of herky-jerky drives and dump offs near the rim.
He’s a smart offensive player.
Olynyk struggled against Embiid, but had a positive impact on the game offensively despite lackluster shooting. He finished with 14 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists. The Pistons offense just flows a lot better when he is on the floor. Isaiah Stewart had a rough night and they need to figure out how to better deploy him going forward.
Detroit returns to action at home on Saturday against the Orlando Magic. It’s possible they add Cunningham to the mix then, too, which makes for a very interesting matchup of dumpster fire teams.
So, hey, maybe that first win isn’t so far away after all?