The Detroit Pistons battled with the Chicago Bulls back and fourth through three quarters, but in the decisive fourth the Pistons went ice cold and the Bulls ran away with a 114-108 victory.
DeMar DeRozan scored a game-high 36 points including 28 in the second half and was getting to his spots and sinking seemingly effortless jumpers while also coaxing plenty of calls from the refs.
Hopefully, Cade Cunningham was watching the veteran go to work because there was a lot he could learn about being a professional scorer in the NBA.
In that final quarter, DeRozan got the line five times and sank 6-of-9 from the field. The Pistons, meanwhile, sank just six shots as a team and go to the free-throw line only once — a pair split by Jerami Grant. Cunningham, who was feasting on Ayo Dosunmu in the first half had just two field goal attempts in the fourth and the team’s entire offense just seemed out of rhythm.
The loss snapped a pair of streaks — Detroit had won three in a row going in and the Bulls had lost five.
Cunningham led the Pistons with 22 points and added six assists and four rebounds. And while Cade has obviously figured things out on offense, he had one of his worst games handling the ball in a while. He committed six turnovers and the majority of them were simply awful decisions passing the ball.
But back to that offense. While Cunningham never gets sped up, the game is obviously slowing down for him, and as he processes what’s happening on the floor he is understanding more how to take advantage of small openings and getting defenders on his hip so he can glide to the rim. Once he gets close he is capable of finishing at multiple angles and also still sees the floor well enough to make difficult passes out to the perimeter or dump it off to a cutter.
Just look how he uses the screen, waits for Donsumu to commit to one side as he fights through the screen and then sees Marvin Bagley rolling into position to set a second screen, which allows Cade enough clearance to drive to the rim and lay it up past the outstretched reach of Tristan Thompson.
Cunningham is making multiple plays like that every game now, and he’s firmly established himself as the most dangerous offensive threat in his rookie class.
Unfortunately, no other Pistons could really match Cade’s sustained effort through the entire game. Detroit got some bursts of scoring and energy from the bench and was able to build up a seven-point lead, but they would always let Chicago back into the game.
Saben Lee, filling in for the injured Killian Hayes, Hamidou Diallo and Kelly Olynyk each had 10 points. But Dwane Casey rode that bench unit too long into the fourth quarter and eventually the shots stopped falling and Chicago went on a closing run that put the game away.
After Rodney McGruder hit a 3-pointer to give the Pistons a 99-92 lead with 8:59 to play, the Bulls went on an 17-2 run and a seven-point lead turned into an eight-point deficit.
The Pistons also lost more players to injury with McGruder eventually leaving with a hamstring issue and Diallo jamming a finger after getting swiped at on a drive to the rim.
The Pistons next play the Boston Celtics on the road on Friday.