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Pistons vs. Cavaliers final score: Donovan Mitchell puts Detroit away with huge fourth

Mitchell scored 20 of his 45 points in the fourth quarter

Detroit Pistons v Cleveland Cavaliers Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

The Cleveland Cavaliers entered Wednesday’s game as one of the hottest teams in the NBA.

The Detroit Pistons entered with a pulse for the first time this season after winning two of their last three games.

And, wouldn’t you know it, they put on a fun, if not sloppy, show.

Danilo Gallinari turned back the clock off the bench, scoring XX points off the bench, but when the game got tight and winning time approached, the Pistons were stymied by their greatest rival — adversity.

After going blow for blow with Cleveland, Detroit missed a few shots, committed a few fouls, and turned it over a few times. What was a tie game devolved into an XX-point loss as the Cavs walked away with an 128-121 win.

Donovan Mitchell had his way for Cleveland, scoring at will in the fourth quarter as he dropped 20 points in the fourth en route to a season-high 45 points. Cleveland really just needed to decide when they wanted this game, because it was there for them all night.

It was the Pistons lapses late that cost them.

Cleveland ended the game on an 13-6 run, sprinting ahead after Detroit tied it at 115. The Pistons led by 5 at one point in the fourth quarter, but after Jarrett Allen stopped Cade Cunningham on a layup with around four minutes to go, Detroit collapsed.

It's amazing the Pistons hung around like they did after the first half Cade and Duren put together. From lethargic defense to lazy passing, neither looked super engaged... and that’s usually a sign of a roughhhh night for the Pistons.

But the other guys stepped up. Gallinari, filling in for an injured Mike Muscala, who was filling in as a starter for an also-injured Isaiah Stewart, flashed some of the scoring touch that made him such a fun, efficient scorer years ago.

He splashed threes, he manufactured free throws thanks to some crafty drives, it was a lot of fun. I don’t even understand how he does it — he’s not fast, nor can he jump more than 12 inches off the ground — but he finished with 20 points off the bench.

Cunningham did find his game. He found his stroke at the end of the second quarter, and by the end of the night, he finished with 19 points and 7 assists. More importantly, he had zero turnovers.

He spent a lot of time early switching on and off with Jaden Ivey as the lead creator. It felt deliberate, and that’s fine. It reminds me, in a weird way, of how it was when Dwyane Wade and LeBron James were trying to figure things out in Miami.

They basically took turns and, being two of the greats of our time, they made it work a hell of a lot better than Cade and Jaden have here... but the idea of learning how to play off the other stands.

Ivey was efficient, scoring 14 on 5/7 shooting, but he had 4 turnovers and was on the wrong end of some defensive possessions in the second half. This play was... weird, late in the game. Trailing by 4 with just over a minute to go, Ivey had Mitchell isolated — albeit with Allen lurking — and rather than let him try to get to the rim, coach Monty Williams called a timeout:

Alec Burks ended up inexplicably getting a 24-second violation on the ensuing play, obviously not what was drawn up, but still a devastating mistake that late.

Ausar Thompson really stood out to me tonight. He was the only guy locked in from the moment he stepped on the floor defensively. His rebounding was huge and I think a lot of the Pistons’ success in the second half — with Gallinari at C — was because of Ausar.

You can get away with an offense-only, zero on the boards and defensively, center when you have a freaky athlete who is crashing the boards constantly and creating havoc defensively.

I really think the situations that are going to allow Ausar to do the most are the ones where he’s the worst shooter on the floor. That’s tough with Duren around, but Ausar does the center stuff as a wing. He basically needs to fill that role somehow.

Many wanted him out there in the closing moments, but I think that logic above was part of why he sat. If you have Ausar and Duren on the floor in closing time then the Cavs can just camp Allen and Evan Mobley in the paint and you’re stuck beating them with jumpers.

The Pistons can’t win that way, at least not yet. It also would have put them in the dead-end position of having to guard those two bigs with, what, Bojan and Cade? Assuming Ausar was out there to harass Mitchell.

Detroit blew it either way. It would have been nice to see them pull out another one, but they are playing better basketball lately. This game was legitimately fun, despite the loss, and after the season we’ve seen, fun is a small victory in itself.

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