It was over.
Until it wasn’t.
Trailing by 21 early in the fourth quarter, the Detroit Pistons looked down and out in their season opener against the Miami Heat on Wednesday. It was a familiar sight after last season’s 17-win slog.
The different tonight? Cade Cunningham.
Detroit’s do-it-all star looked like one, scoring 30 points to go with 9 assists but couldn’t hit a game-winning three over Jimmy Butler at the buzzer as the Pistons fell, 103-102.
What a weird game.
The Pistons really showed the good and bad throughout. Turnovers absolutely put them in a deep hole as they gave it away 16 times, leading to 25 points from Miami. If they weren’t so careless, they probably would have won as they held the Heat to 40% shooting.
It’s just hard, if not impossible, to overcome a ridiculous amount of turnovers when you’re not an offensive juggernaut that can overcome those types of dumb mistakes.
The fourth quarter was obviously the good, where Cade controlled the tempo and looked like the player we thought we’d see last season.
Jalen Duren, who got two early fouls, really came on late and finished with 17 points, 14 rebounds, 4 assists and 4 blocks. He showed great chemistry with Cade, too, which is important because the two really didn’t get much time on the floor together last year.
I’d say the chemistry between Duren and Isaiah Stewart was pretty good tonight as well.
Stew, much maligned for his shooting this preseason, nailed 2 of his 3 attempts from downtown and was really a force on both ends. He finished with 14 points and 14 boards as the bigs combined for 12 offensive rebounds.
That was important because outside of Cade and the bigs, the Pistons did not have much to offer. Killian Hayes (10 points) and Ausar Thompson (more on him later) combined to shoot 5 of 19 from the field while Jaden Ivey had a very lackluster opener with 4 points on 1 of 7 shooting. I think Ivey will do better in this sixth man role, but tonight was rough.
Ausar though, man. He couldn’t buy a bucket, but he wasn’t exactly getting spoon fed great looks. However, the Heat could not score against this man. He notched five blocks, third most ever by a rookie in their debut, and grabbed 7 rebounds. His defense is as advertised and as the game wore on, you could see instances where guys like Bam Adebayo were passing up shots because of Ausar’s presence as a shot blocker.
It makes me feel better about the starting lineup when Bojan Bogdanovic comes back in a few weeks. Ausar might just be that good defensively that you can slot in a non-defender like Bogey and, as long as you’re getting a bump on offense, you won’t lose much on D.
The rest of the guys were... fine.
Marcus Sasser is a hooper. I liked his minutes, though I’m not sure about pairing him with Ivey as it seems like two tweener guards who would both be better suited alongside a more traditional point guard.
I’d love to see Ivey, Cade and Duren, since, I think, they still have not played together in a regular season game — unless I missed it tonight. Alec Burks, interestingly, had a lot of Monty’s trust as he closed the game in place of Ausar.
It makes sense — Monty wants more vets on the floor and they needed shooting in the worst way — Burks just didn’t have a great night shooting it as he was 2 of 8 for 5 points. That’s another player who never got to play with Cade last year due to their respective injuries.
I’d expect that duo to improve as they get more accustomed to one another.
All in all, this was a fun game. I’m glad Cade is back and that Pistons played their asses off to get back into it.
Let us know what you thought in the comments!