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Pistons vs. Pelicans final score: Cade Cunningham injured as Detroit falters late

Jerami Grant and Kelly Olynyk returned in a loss for the Pistons

New Orleans Pelicans v Detroit Pistons Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The biggest question leading up to the Detroit Pistons’ game against the New Orleans Pelicans on Tuesday was simple: How do Jerami Grant and Kelly Olynyk fit?

Two of the Pistons best players, the veterans have missed a large chunk of the season due to injuries and COVID. Obviously, the Pistons have struggled more times than not without them, but young players like Saddiq Bey, Hamidou Diallo and Cade Cunningham have made strides with additional responsibility.

So, yeah, the question of how everything would look and work tonight was a biggie.

Turns out, for a night, the answer was pretty well.

Grant scored 12 of his 17 points in the first half while Olynyk had a team-high six assists off the bench, but Cunningham left in the second half with an injury and the Pistons fell apart in the second half as the Pelicans walked away with an 111-101 win.

For two and a half quarters, Detroit looked good. Yeah, really good.

The offense clicked as Grant wasn’t bogging things down with isos. It seemed like a nice juxtaposition of the “It’s Grant’s Team” offense and the “It’s Cade’s Team” offense. The Pistons led 65-57 at half and extended that lead to 15 points early in the third.

Annnnnd then it all came crashing down.

New Orleans stormed back as the Detroit offense dried up. Cade, who finished with six points and five rebounds, left with a right hip pointer injury. He appeared to come back from the locker room to try and loosen up, but never returned to the court.

The Pistons should be able to weather that against a team like the Pelicans, but when Bey scores just seven points on 2-for-10 shooting, it’s an uphill climb. Grant was efficient, hitting 6-of-13 shots, but not dominant, while Cory Joseph scored 18 points as Detroit mustered just 14 points in the fourth.

Dwane Casey’s rotations were definitely a work in progress as Diallo only played 17 minutes despite scoring 12 points in his return to the bench. I think that was a result of Grant’s return but also Frank Jackson being back fully.

Those shooting guard/small forward minutes are fleeting, and Jackson added 14 points off the bench — albeit shooting a poor 1-of-7 from downtown.

I also liked what I saw from Isaiah Stewart. He had a tough assignment with historic Pistons killer Jonas Valanciunas and he held him to a respectable 13 points. New Orleans constantly tried to hunt him out on switches against Brandon Ingram and, again, Stew played well.

Ingram got his, finishing with 26 points, but the midrange iso situations he had against Stewart were not no-doubter easy possessions. That’s what you need out of your bigs.

The other big man, Kelly Olynyk, led a dominant bench run in the first half.

Overall wasn’t quite as good as Grant in his return.

Olynyk scored just three points, but did a good job creating for others. There were also turnover issues as he led the team with five and he was not good defensively, either.

That’s the trade off with Olynyk on most nights. He’s going to give you production as a big playmaker but you’re going to have to accept his defensive limitations with it. Once he gets his legs under him, it’ll be interesting to see how he, Grant and Cade play... that is, if they ever play together again.

Hopefully Cade’s injury isn’t too bad. Hip injuries are scary around here after what happened with Killian Hayes last year, but a hip pointer is a relatively common injury.

We’re four games away from the NBA Trade Deadline on Feb. 10. Grant had a nice return tonight and, assuming he plays well in these next four games, could be on his way out of Detroit soon. Or not, it honestly feels touch and go at this point.

Regardless, this game was a perfect example of the “fun” part of tanking. You’re able to go out and beat a good team like the Cavaliers on the road and take a loss at home to a bad team like the Pelicans, and both are good!

At least that’s what I’m telling myself. How’d y’all see it? Let us know in the comments.