Both Cade Cunningham and the Little Caesars Arena court looked sharp with the controversial teal jerseys returning, but the Detroit Pistons defense remained bad. The Atlanta Hawks once again took advantage of the porous Pistons’ defense and pulled away in the second half, winning 136-113.
Cade was again terrific in the first half against the Hawks. The Detroit second-year leader scored an efficient 27 points before halftime while again largely abandoning the three-point line that he so relied on a year ago. Cunningham again sputtered in the second half, was hampered by foul trouble, but still ended with a career-high 35 points while adding 8 rebounds and 8 assists.
As for the rest of the Pistons, it was an especially rough night. When Cade left just before the third quarter break, Detroit was down nine and at least in striking distance. When he returned in the fourth quarter, the Pistons were down 21 and out of the game.
The primary culprit offensively for Detroit was an extremely poor shooting night from deep. The Pistons made only seven of 32 threes and the vast majority of those misses were wide open. Bojan Bogdanovich made three of those deep balls and ended the game with 22 points. Isaiah Stewart and Jaden Ivey were the only other Pistons to make threes, even draining two. Stewart ended with 17 points while Ivey added 12.
More concerning was yet another extremely poor defensive performance from Detroit. Whether the Pistons played drop coverage, switched, or trapped, the Hawks continuously got into the paint at will and found basically whatever shot they wanted.
To be clear, defending a Trae Young-led offense is on easy feat. And Atlanta almost certainly out-shot expectation. But Detroit’s defensive woes have become a clear trend at this point. They have struggled to stop dribble penetration with any real consistency and they routinely over-play the strong side which leaves shooters open.
With the loss, the Pistons fall to 1-5 and things only get more difficult. Detroit plays their next four games against the Golden State Warriors, Milwaukee Bucks, and Cleveland Cavaliers.
- Jaden Ivey subbed out earlier in the first and three quarters than usual. That may be due to his recovery from illness, but it had the effect of staggering Cade’s and Ivey’s minutes which makes some sense. We’ll see if that continues.
- Detroit simply needs more horses defensively. Could moving Isaiah Livers into Saddiq Bey’s starting spot help? It can’t hurt. Either way, the Pistons have to find a long, athletic wing who can take on opposing number ones either in the draft or free agency.
- It would also help if the Pistons’ guards could simply get over screens consistently. That has to be a point of emphasis moving forward.