For the second game in a row, the Detroit Pistons controlled the majority of game action. And for the second game in a row, it was lead by Cade Cunningham, Jerami Grant, and Marvin Bagley III. However, for the second game in a row, the Pistons relinquished that lead late, and fell short to the Los Angeles Clippers 106-102. Detroit lead by as much as 18 points, and took advantage of a Clippers team that came out flat. However, as the game went on, the Clippers offense came alive, and the question of who the better team was got an answer fairly quickly. And that offensive attack from Los Angeles came at the hands of some familiar faces to Pistons fans.
The Clippers were lead by Marcus Morris, who had a game high 31 points on 10-19 shooting. Morris was no stranger to the rims in the Little Caesars Arena, as not too long ago, Morris was the Pistons leading scorer. But Morris was not the only one who used to don the Detroit red and blue. Both Reggie Jackson and Luke Kennard had strong performances for the Clippers, finishing with 14 and 16 points respectively. All three players have been at the center of the Clippers success this season, as LA has been without both Kawhi Leonard and Paul George for large parts of the year. And with the Clippers being in as strong of a position as they are without their stars, one can only imagine what they will be like next year at full strength.
Pistons are currently top heavy, and limited in backup
For the second game in a row, the Pistons were without a strong portion of their bench. Specifically some of their most reliable rotation players. Hamidou Diallo, Killian Hayes, Isaiah Stewart, Rodney McGruder, and Frank Jackson were all absent from Sunday’s game. And with that, Detroit relied on an 8 man rotation. Second round picks Saben Lee and Isaiah Livers were relied on for significant minutes. And yet again, Isaiah Livers has made the most of the opportunities he’s been given. Livers finished with 9 points, 3-4 from three, 5 rebounds, 1 assist, and even a block. If Livers keeps playing like this, he will definitely carve a role for himself going forward.
For the rest of the bench, however, it was some generally underwhelming performances for both Kelly Olynyk and Saben Lee. Despite leading the G League in scoring, Saben Lee was only able to notch 2 points shooting 1-2 from the field. And even though he was able to notch 4 assists, his play left a lot to be desired. And if Detroit wants to win some more games before the end of the season, they are going to need more from whoever is coming off the bench.
Cade Cunningham’s greatness continues, but he needs more help
In what seems to be a routine occurrence between each game recap, Cade Cunningham continued to be great. Throughout Sunday’s action, Cunningham flirted with a triple double. And for the second game in a row, Cunningham played 40 plus minutes. Cade had 23 points, 10 assists, 9 rebounds, 2 blocks, and shot 50 percent from the field. Cade is starting to leverage his game in the midrange, as well as becoming a great scorer when running down hill. However, outside of Marvin Bagley and Jerami Grant, not much help was around for Cunningham in this one. Saddiq Bey has continued his cold stretch, shooting 3-11 from the field and 2-7 from beyond the arc. Detroit will need more from Bey offensively if they are looking to bounce back.
Another player that struggled for Detroit throughout the afternoon as Cory Joseph. Joseph did finish with 10 points, but just like Bey, struggled to shoot from the field. In fact, Joseph was the only starter for Detroit to finish with a negative plus/minus. Although Cory is normally a beacon of consistency for the Pistons, it was simply not his night. On the flip side, Marvin Bagley and Jerami Grant continue to play good basketball, and seem to thrive when playing with Cade Cunningham. Bagley had another solid performance scoring in the post, finishing with 15 points on 7-13 from the field. Whether in the pick and roll with Cade, or posting up down low, Bagley is confident in his offensive game. If he can bring that confidence to the defensive end, there’s no telling where he can go.
Pistons begin a three game road trip on Tuesday
Despite two difficult losses in a row, the Pistons will need to shrug this one off and move on to Tuesday. In the nature of the NBA, it’s on to the next one. But for Detroit, the next one isn’t exactly easier. They will travel to Florida to begin their three game road trip in Miami, as they will face the top of the east on their home court. And this begins a three game road trip for the Pistons, as they will then face the Magic on Thursday and then Cleveland one final time on Saturday.
There might not be a better way for Cade Cunningham to continue his rookie of the year campaign than by facing two of the top five picks from his class down the stretch. And if Cunningham wants to secure that award, he’s going to need some health. Specifically, the team as a whole will need their key pieces on the injury report to get healthy as soon as possible. It is now the home stretch of the Pistons season. 14 games remain. As the season comes to a close, a lot of questions will soon be answered. But for now, the goal for the remaining games is clear: continue to grow, get some wins, and finish strong. The way a season ends can be huge for a team rebuilding. It can even change the trajectory of a franchise. And Detroit will not take that lightly as the season winds down.
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