When the Detroit Pistons are playing meaningful basketball, Cade Cunningham and Marcus Sasser will be two of the biggest reasons why.
The young backcourt went deep in their bag against the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday and came away with... another loss. Detroit’s guards got them a lead in the fourth quarter, but the team crumbled late as the Bucks, sans Giannis Antetokounmpo, won 120-118.
This was supposed to be a coronation post where I applauded the hard-working Pistons on a much-needed win. Instead, their pathetic showing over the final five minutes leaves me wanting to throw my laptop out the window.
Detroit seemingly had it on cruise control, leading 113-106 with just over five minutes to go.
Sasser had just hit a jumper to hit 26 points, a career-best night for the rookie, but then the Bucks switched from man defense to zone. We all know how this story goes.
Detroit pooped its pants constantly against zone defense under Dwane Casey — most times in games against the Miami Heat — and Monty Williams’ crew did it against Adrian Griffin’s Bucks.
Detroit scored five points over the final five minutes as they looked naked and afraid against what kind of looked like a 2-1-2 zone. Those offensive struggles led to a complete breakdown on the defensive end as they allowed Damian Lillard to get to the rim at will, steadily leading Milwaukee back for the win.
As George Blaha says, it was 43 minutes of exciting Pistons basketball.
Then five minutes of excruciating Pistons basketball.
Cade scored the five points down the stretch, but his final shot from half court was doomed from the start after the Bucks batted away the inbounds pass with seconds to go.
Obviously, the weak ejection of Giannis Antetokounmpo in the third quarter helped Detroit get that lead, but the Pistons earned it for much of that time. Cunningham shook off a slow start and carried the load in the second and third quarters, scoring 28 of his 33 points to get Detroit back into it. He added 8 assists and 8 rebounds.
Sasser checked in midway through the third and set off every smoke detector in Fiserv Forum because the kid was cooking:
Marcus Sasser has 24 points in 21 minutes. pic.twitter.com/eKlx89gO0z— Steve Jones Jr. (@stevejones20) November 9, 2023
Sasser scored on a flurry of jumpers and scooping layups. It was a really impressive game and it makes you wonder how the Pistons are going to re-work this rotation if they ever get fully healthy.
There just aren’t gonna be enough minutes for guys like Burks, Sasser, Killian, Ivey and Monte Morris to all play.
As frustrating as tonight was, it’s still really difficult to analyze this team. What they are now is not what they should be when healthy. I think they win that game if Bojan Bogdanovic is out there late because his shooting helps you break a zone.
Isaiah Stewart made two big threes in the third to fuel the Detroit run that got them the lead, but he was dared to hit shots late and he just couldn’t convert against the zone. It’s the NBA, you gotta be able to make the big shots when they’re open.
Same logic if Alec Burks or Jaden Ivey were healthy. Marcus Sasser played the last, I think, 17 or 18 minutes of that game. That’s crazy in the NBA for a non-star type and it showed late as he had NO legs on his shots at the end.
So, yeah, losing sucks and this game should have been one that left you smiling. Instead, it leaves us wondering what the heck these guys have to do to get a win.
Come vent in the comments. They’ll snap this losing streak eventually. I think.