Let’s get the ugliness out of the way. The Detroit Pistons trailed by double digits the majority of the night and fell 128-112. Cade Cunningham had his worst, least impactful game of the season. His shot was off, he settled for bad shots, was a poor floor general, and got cooked several times on defense. The Pistons allowed a season-high 18 threes to the Celtics. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown scored more than 30, and they did it easily.
It was an ugly night.
OK, now let’s forget all of that and never speak of it again. There were some actual bright spots for the Pistons in the lopsided loss. Jaden Ivey had his best game of the season. Jalen Duren had arguably his best game of the season. Killian Hayes EASILY had his best game of the season.
First, we’ll talk Killian. I’m not sure what got into him tonight. He’d played so poorly that it practically became a meme in the past week, and perhaps a dam broke and he decided to say, “screw it, I’m just gonna ball. It’s not like it can get any worse.”
That freedom served him well. He played with an ease not seen so far this season. He was stepping into 3s, working his way inside for clean mid-rangers and never hesitating for a moment. Hayes finished with 16 points on 7-of-12 shooting. I have no illusions this is the start of sustained success for Hayes, but he deserved to have a good night, and hopefully he can bottle a little of that confidence and decisiveness and carry it into the next game, and the next one after that.
Now for Ivey. The rookie guard was all over the floor for the Pistons tonight, and when nobody could generate any clean offense, Ivey was there to press the attack, get around defenders in the half court and had his jumper working well enough. His biggest asset continues to be how he is able to us his electric speed in a spread floor to force defenders to react and kick the ball out to an open teammate. He has good instincts as a passer and can rifle the ball through a small opening. Ivey finished with 19 points, 10 rebounds, and 6 assists. If his team could have managed to shoot better than 21% from deep and 41% overall, he would have easily had his first triple-double.
Don’t forget Duren. The man is a MAN. He’s huge, and while he suffers from all the typical issues a young big man deals with early in their NBA career, he’s showing a deep bag and a promising future. The league’s youngest player is showing great instincts as a shot-blocker, a capable passer, and can rebound in traffic and finish a putback through contact. He finished with a 10-point, 10-rebound double-double, and more than those counting stats was how his presence on the floor really seemed to change the dynamic for Detroit’s lineups on both ends of the floor. He’s destined to be the team’s starting center, and it’s going to happen at some point before the calendar turns to 2023.
Isaiah Stewart also had a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds, and Saddiq Bey had 18 points courtesy of getting to the line 10 times. So like I said, it wasn’t all bad, considering it was a blowout.
Is there anything to say about the actual game? Well, I wish the Pistons could just steal Boston’s playbook, but it probably works best with, you know, players as good as the Celtics. They were just stepping into open 3s all night, and when Detroit defenders deigned to play up on them, they would drive the lane and either find an open line to the rim or start flinging the ball around until they found a player open from deep.
Often, that player was Sam Hauser, who hit 6 threes and finished with 24 points. Those shots typically came at the worst possible times just after the Pistons would cut a deficit to 10 or 11 points, and you started to think they could make a game of it. Suddenly, Hauser splashes a couple threes and Boston is up 16 and TD Garden is going bonkers. It was just that kinda night.
But at least a few Pistons players can come away with some positives, the team can build off of that and Cade Cunningham plays more like Cade Cunningham again.