The Sacramento Kings came to Little Caesars Arena in turmoil.
They’ve lost six of the past eight games, most recently blowing a 14-point lead in a loss to the lowly Oklahoma City Thunder. Head coach Luke Walton is on the hot seat and appears to be coaching for his job.
Things are not well with the Kings.
The Detroit Pistons, meanwhile, are coming off their best performance of the season — an exciting win at the Toronto Raptors. They finally hit shots. Killian Hayes had a superb game and Cade Cunningham put on his closer hat for the first time as a pro.
All things considered, it looked like the Pistons were primed for another win on Monday.
That, uh, didn’t happen.
Detroit’s offense came crashing back to earth as they shot 27% from downtown while the Kings looked like the early-2000s teams, leading by as many as 32 points in an 129-107 win.
Really, it was a failure from start to finish.
The Pistons shot just 31% in the first half, trailing by 24 at the break. Jerami Grant was particularly listless, missing jumpers and layups, turning the ball over and overall looking like he had better things to be doing. It’s rare, but he was horrendous.
Cade Cunningham and Saddiq Bey were the only offensive bright spots. The pair combined for 32 in the first half, the only two players on the team who had any rhythm. Even so, Detroit missed 19 of its final 20 shots to end the first quarter.
The results weren’t any better in the second half, but the effort was. The Pistons played hard, but were just out-basketballed. They defended poorly. They shot poorly. Dwane Casey was out-coached by a guy thisclose to the unemployment line.
Bey and Cunningham, though. That was good to see.
The former was hitting shots, finally. Bey had struggled from everywhere in recent games, but hit 4-of-9 from three and scored a season-high 28 points. He wasn’t trying to create as much for himself, instead letting more of the game come to him via the playmaking of Cunningham.
That’s a good development, because that’s the best form of these two.
Cunningham put on a show, albeit in a game that was never really close. He scored a career-high 25 points and added 8 rebounds and 8 assists, flirting with his first career triple-double. He was just in command, finding his spots in hitting a plethora of jumpers and slashing layups, including this banger of a dunk:
Cade Cunningham pump fakes and drives the open lane for his first NBA dunk pic.twitter.com/lpcobAbSN9— Hisiah Thomas (@RedAlternates) November 16, 2021
He failed to get to the line for the third-straight game, which is a tad alarming. Even when the jumper is good, he should be driving and looking for contact. But, when the shots are falling, they’re falling.
I’d be remiss to not point out that Luka Garza had a nice night. He hit a triple, laid some bone-crushing screens and finished with 5 points to go with 7 rebounds. He might have earned himself some more playing time with Kelly Olynyk out.
Also worth noting that reported Pistons trade target Marvin Bagley III scored 7 points on 3-of-9 shooting for Sacramento.
However, terrible defensive effort aside, this game exposed one of the biggest roster construction flaws over the course of Troy Weaver’s time as GM: athleticism. Detroit is probably the least athletic team in the NBA, and the Kings exposed it.
One solution might be Hamidou Diallo.
Casey dusted off the bouncy wing with the game out of reach, and he provided a boost. His energy, athleticism and penetrating style were a welcome sight as he scored 7 points in 9 minutes. I’m not sure who he replaces in the rotation — probably Josh Jackson? — but it’s worth watching going forward.
What’d y’all think? Did you make it through the entire game? If you didn’t, it’s ok. Let us know your thoughts in the comments!