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Pistons Final: Jalen Duren and Jaden Ivey deliver in Pistons upset of Thunder

Pistons able to out-hustle and outlast an opponent

Oklahoma City Thunder v Detroit Pistons Photo by Mike Mulholland/Getty Images

The Detroit Pistons were coming off a dispiriting loss to the Washington Wizards, were on the second night of a back-to-back, and starting point guard Cade Cunningham was an 11th hour scratch. So of course the Pistons were able to outhustle, outmuscle, and outlast the Oklahoma City Thunder in a 120-104 win.

The Pistons protected the ball, committing just nine turnovers, and dominated the boards against the Thunder, two things they decidedly could not do against the Wizards. Jaden Ivey was able to use his speed and hustle throughout the game, and really became a tone-setter for the Pistons. He finished with 19 points, eight rebounds, six assists, and several plays you’ll never find in the box score.

He was jumping in a forest of bigger players to tip the ball to teammates, he was consistently navigating switches well, and he saved a ball from going out of bounds and instead deflected it to a teammate on more than one occasion. To put it simply, the Pistons do not win this game without Jaden Ivey.

Jalen Duren was also able to dominate in ways he hadn’t in quite a while. He was getting a bit abused by rookie Chet Holmgren early, but eventually settled in and played tall and smart. He finished with 22 points, 21 rebounds, and six assists. Duren shot 9-of-13 from the field and 4-of-5 from the free-throw line. In a game where the matchup at center was critical, he was able to best Holmgren, who was held to nine points and 12 rebounds on 4-of-11 from the field.

It wasn’t just the starters who delivered the game for the Pistons, though. The Pistons got great bench production from Alec Burks, (a team-high +18), rookies Ausar Thompson and Marcus Sasser (+16), and stretch big Mike Muscala (+14). They were spacing the floor, playing with pace, and playing smart, aggressive defense.

The Thunder were led by Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who scored 31 points in a variety of ways. But the Pistons were able to really take advantage anytime SGA sat, and even though the game was within reach of OKC in the fourth, especially considering Detroit’s penchant for coughing up winnable games, Shai sat out the fourth quarter with a Thunder game coming tomorrow against the Wovles.

The moral of this story is the Pistons need to play with this kind of energy, this sort of rotation, and manage to do it while Cunningham is playing his usual 30 minutes per game. They can’t just rely on Cade to do everything in ISO. That is on coach Monty Williams, on Cade to orchestrate effectively, and on his teammates not to defer and just stand around and watch.

Ivey is effective with the ball in his hands so put the ball in his hands. Mike Muscala should be getting plenty of minutes, and Monty Williams needs to empower his team to its strengths instead of force-feeding players into clogged lineups with outsized responsibilities.

This team can win, and they can win games just like this. It’s on the Pistons coaching staff to figure out how to get to happen more consistently.