This game got out to a blistering start, so the final score was not a surprise at all. The Lakers were pushing the pace and the Pistons had to play fast to match their pace. Early on, Cade Cunningham made a couple of very good defensive plays on LeBron James with the help of Cory Joseph, who was starting in place of the injured Killian Hayes.
It was more out of necessity, but the Pistons played a smaller lineup that featured a frontcourt of Trey Lyles and Josh Jackson, with Hamidou Diallo, Frank Jackson, and Cade Cunningham on the wings. This lineup was able to keep pace with the big Lakers lineup and the Pistons would only be looking at a 30-26 deficit at the end of the 1st.
Cade Cunningham played the whole first quarter and was not afraid to get off shots. He made only 3 shots on 9 attempts, but his fingerprints were all over the 1st quarter. He commanded the offense and made some great plays on defense.
The Pistons would start the 2nd with the same small lineup, but with Cory Joseph in place of Cunningham. That lineup continued to give the Lakers problems and were able to build a lead on the Lakers as they started the quarter on a 13-5 run. Hamidou Diallo had his best stretch of basketball of the season as he scored 11 points in his nine 1st half minutes. It is going to be very tough to keep him out of the rotation with how he has played recently. Him and Josh Jackson showed great chemistry and were able to play off each other despite having similar skillsets.
Dwane Casey was able to wait until the 7 minute mark of the 2nd quarter before he started to ease the starters back in. With a game being played as fast as this one, any extra rest you can get the starter is crucial.
The Lakers started to build a lead in the 2nd quarter, but the Pistons were able to hang around. Every time it looked like the Lakes might start to run away, the young Pistons had an answer. They were moving the ball well and hitting their shots, which is always the recipe for a good game.
In the closing moments of the half, the Pistons went nuclear from 3-point range, including four in a row by Jerami Grant. They led 68-61 at halftime, and it would have been a 10 point lead if Dwight Howard didn’t make a 3 in the final seconds (his 2nd of the quarter). Grant led the Pistons in scoring with 18 at halftime.
The Pistons started the 3rd quarter picking up where they left off. Then with about 9 minutes left in the quarter, this happened:
This cheap shot by LeBron James led to a huge dust up where the benches cleared and Isaiah Stewart had to be restrained by multiple teammates multiple times to stop him from trying to fight LeBron. LeBron would be ejected from a Flagrant 2 foul, and Isaiah Stewart would be ejected from getting two technicals. He also got his face cut badly in the process. I would imagine both players are looking at fines and possibly suspensions.
After the dust up, the Pistons responded against the veteran Lakers. They kept playing tough defense, moving the ball well, and hitting their shots. They didn’t miss a beat as they were able to keep their foot on the gas and keep the momentum going. They would lead 99-84 heading into the 4th quarter.
The Lakers started to flip the script against the Pistons bench to start the 4th quarter. The bench had played well all game, but the Lakers started off the 4th quarter on a 7-0 run and killed the positive momentum the starters were able to create after the 3rd quarter altercation. The Pistons lead would go all the way down to 3 points by the 8 minute mark of the quarter as the Lakers run ballooned to 14-2.
Once the Lakers got the momentum, the Pistons just couldn’t get it back, even after the starters came back in. It looked like this game was over after the Pistons response after the fight, but the Lakers were the more talented team with battle tested veterans, and the 4th quarter showed that. The Pistons were in for a fight for the rest of the 4th in a game that shouldn’t have gotten to that point.
In the end, the Lakers veteran trio of Russell Westbrook, Anthony Davis, and Carmelo Anthony were just too much as the Pistons let this one slip away, 121-116
Davis had 30 points and Westbrook had 26 points and was 1 rebound short of a triple-double.
Cade Cunningham did get what is hopefully the first of many triple-doubles for his career, with 13 points, 12 rebounds, and 10 assists. Although is came on 6-of-21 shooting. Jerami Grant had 36 and Hamidou Diallo had 17 points off the bench.
The Pistons will face the Miami Heat on Tuesday.