The Detroit Pistons stayed with the Atlanta Hawks in a back-and-forth affair at Little Caesars Arena, but a tired Cade Cunningham and an inability to protect the paint late were too much to overcome and Detroit fell 118-113.
Cunningham wanted to put a slow start to the season behind him and put his stamp on a game, and he knew the best way to do that was to attack early and often. Cunningham ditched his unreliable 3-point stroke and instead aggressively knifed into the paint, and it led to a brilliant 22-point first half on 10-of-15 shooting. But Cunningham ran out of gas, particularly late, as he struggled to a 1-of-10 shooting half with five of his seven turnovers. He finished with 26 points.
The Pistons were led by the quick-trigger sharpshooting of Bojan Bogdanovic who has a knack for losing his defender on the perimeter and using the modicum of space to launch a 3. He also knows when to take advantage of the defender overcommitting and is comfortable attacking the rim. Bogdanovic scored a season-high 34 points and hit six three-pointers.
The Hawks were led by Trae Young who struggled from deep but made up for it by aggressively attacking Detroit’s defenders and found himself at the charity stripe 17 times, making all but one of his attempts. Young finished with 35 points.
Truthfully, it was a good bounce back game for the Pistons after a truly uninspired performance the night before against the Wizards. Not only was Cunningham aggressive and scoring inside and from the mid-range, but the bench finally showed up and delivered its best outing of the season.
The rotation was even shorter than usual as Jaden Ivey missed the game with an illness, which forced Corey Joseph into the starting lineup. But Jalen Duren again played aggressive and was a force in the paint. There were plenty of mistakes, but his talent is already undeniable and his rebounding prowess is notable. He nabbed nine boards and scored seven points in 20 minutes.
Killian Hayes also had a nice game after a no-show against Washington. He nailed his first 3-point attempt of the night and he hit his next basket, a drving layup. Those were his only two baskets, but he added four assists and played solid defense all night.
Isaiah Livers also played his best game of the season, delivering 12 points via four 3-pointers. He’s cementing a nice role for himself as a 3-point specialist and capable defender off the bench.
That bench was crucial in helping keep the game close in the fourth quarter, despite the Hawks getting several good looks at the basket. Unfortunately, when Cade and the starters returned with just over 6 minutes to go in the game and the score tied at 100, they were out of gas.
Cunningham got several shots blocked or altered and made a series of careless passes as he struggled to navigate the defense of Dejounte Murray. The Pistons, with Isaiah Stewart as the sole big man on the floor, just didn’t have the size to deter an attacking Hawks offense. From the six-minute mark on, the Hawks scored six baskets and all were within three feet of the rim, including several driving layups off of passes from Hawks’ guards.
The Pistons will get a chance to steal one back from Atlanta on Friday with another game at Little Caesars. Hopefully the team can manage an entire four-quarter effort.