Jaden Ivey scored a career-high 37 points, including 19 in the fourth quarter to power the Detroit Pistons past the Sacramento Kings 133-120 in front of a stunned crowd at the Golden One Center.
It was a physical game that had explosive runs from both teams, with the teams combining for 32 three-pointers and 106 points in the paint. But it was the Pistons, led by Ivey, that seemed to outmuscle, outrun, and outwill the Kings in the end.
On a night when the Pistons were without three starters (Cade Cunningham, Isaiah Stewart, Bojan Bogdanovic) and two key bench players (Kevin Knox, Monte Morris) because of injury and pending trades, the Pistons found a way to win, and the lion’s share of the credit goes to Ivey.
Despite a strong back-and-forth first half, it felt like yet another game the Pistons were going to let slip away despite punching above their weight for the majority of the game. They were able to turn a one-point deficit at halftime into a 15-point lead in the third quarter. The Kings were a step slow, front-rimming their jumpers, and struggling to contain Detroit.
But then turnovers led to transition points, and one open 3 for the Kings led to another. Suddenly, a crowd that had been softly booing their team was back into the game and exploded when a Ivey turnovers led to a Domantas Sabonis three at the buzzer to put the Kings up one going into the final frame.
The Pistons, however, did not wilt, and that is because Ivey decided to go nuclear and deliver his best performance as a pro.
The second-year guard relentlessly attacked the basket, and he hit five of his seven three-pointers.
It was just one of those nights for the Pistons. They were able to answer every flurry, every lopsided foul call, and every punch Sacramento could deliver, and in spurts the Kings can deliver a flurry of blows.
Sabonis had 30 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists. He was able to slither his way to the rim or coax a foul call from the officials. Trey Lyles five threes on his way to 19 points, and they happened to go down right when it looked like the Kings might wave the white flag. Instead, they kept fighting, and the Pistons kept answering.
The Pistons truly got contributions from up and down the lineup, but special credit goes to Ausar Thompson who somehow finds a way to score efficiently night in and night out despite having a busted jumper. Tonight, he was 5-of-6 from the floor for 12 poins and added his typical hellacious, if sometimes foul-prone, defense.
Jalen Duren seemed to take his matchup with Sabonis personally, and he gave just as good as he got. He ended the night with 20 points, 15 rebounds, and six assists while also converting all six of his foul shots.
the much-maligned Killian Hayes, who had recently fallen all the way out of the rotation and has a good chance of being traded before the deadline Thursday, played a nice game as a spot starter. He constantly pushed the ball up the floor and gave the Pistons the advantage against an unset Kings defense. He finished with just eight points, but he dished nine assists and had just one turnover. He did exactly what was asked of him, and gave the Pistons exactly what they needed tonight.
The team had their best 3-point shooting night of the season, and it wasn’t just Ivey converting at a high percentage. Alec Burks (25 points), who might have played his final game in a Pistons uniform, was 5-of-7 from deep, Mike Muscala hit 3-of-6, and Killian Hayes was 2-of-4. All in, the team shot 17-of-31 from deep 56% from the floor overall and was a perfect 22-of-22 from the free-throw line. They also were +15 on the boards and kept their turnovers to a semi-reasonable 13 on the night.
In a disastrous season with so many missing players on the start of a long road trip against a quality Western Conference team, the Pistons somehow outplayed their opponent in every phase of the game.
Basketball is just funny like that sometimes.