Bey, Grant. Cunningham, Stewart, Livers
(Chris Schwegler/NBAE via Getty Images)

Pistons gut out a win playing 5th game in 7 nights


Three quick observations from Friday night’s 111-106 win over the Indiana Pacers at Little Caesars Arena

GUTTING IT OUT – The Pistons scored 59 points in the game’s first 17 minutes and appeared a lock for many things, including a win. But then the calendar caught up with them. Playing not only a back to back against an Indiana team that was off on Thursday but also playing their fifth game in seven nights, the Pistons didn’t manage another 59 points in the game’s final 31 minutes and, in fact, fell six points behind with three minutes to play. But Cade Cunningham, who went 2 of 11 after a hot first quarter until hitting two big shots late, started a closing 12-1 run with a triple and Saddiq Bey followed to tie the game at 1:40. Cunningham then put the Pistons ahead on a layup with 1:09 to play and grabbed two big rebounds on the defensive end in the final minute. Two free throws apiece from Jerami Grant and Bey closed it out, Bey’s coming after Jalen Smith’s three to tie rimmed out. After falling behind by 15 points midway through the second quarter, on the strength of offensive rebounding and second-chance points Indiana kept clawing from behind and eventually took the lead with less than five minutes to play in the third quarter. The Pacers finished with 25 second-chance points.

The emerging big three of Cunningham, Bey and Grant, who combined for 71 points in Thursday’s win at Toronto, scored the first 20 Pistons points on Friday and combined for 53 total. That got the Pistons off and running with their highest-scoring first quarter of the season and a 39-32 lead. Bey finished with 25 points, Cunningham with 20 and nine rebounds.

BAGLEY BACK – After missing the past three games with a left ankle injury that originally was incurred while he was with Sacramento, Marvin Bagley III was back for the Pistons. Bagley scored 10 first-half points in nine minutes and finished with 18 points and eight rebounds in 22 minutes. He appeared to aggravate his ankle injury when he went after an off-target lob pass in the second quarter and landed awkwardly, but he shook off trainers after picking himself off the floor. With Bagley’s return but Frank Jackson missing his second straight game – and seventh of the last eight – with back spams, Dwane Casey’s second unit consisted of Killian Hayes, Kelly Olynyk, Hamidou Diallo and Rodney McGruder in addition to Bagley. The bench scored 26 first-half points but was on the floor when Indiana began its comeback from a 15-point deficit. McGruder and Olynyk each hit a pair of triples as part of the 9 of 10 start from the 3-point arc for the Pistons. Isaiah Livers entered late in the third quarter when Kelly Olynyk picked up three quick fouls.

MICHIGAN ROOTS – One reason the Pacers hung around in the first half as the Pistons were raining 3-pointers on them was the contributions of a pair of rookies with Michigan backgrounds. Indiana starting center Isaiah Jackson, the 22nd pick after one season at Kentucky, was part of the Pacers’ 14 second-chance points in the half when he had nine points and seven rebounds, five of them on the offensive glass. Undrafted guard Duane Washington Jr., who spent three years at Ohio State after his days at Grand Rapids Christian, scored 12 first-half points while hitting 4 of 8 from the 3-point arc. Jackson, who began his high school career at Rochester Hills Lutheran Northwest and finished it at Waterford Mott, finished with 12 points and 12 rebounds. Washington finished with 16 points in 19 minutes, hitting 6 of 12 shots. Pistons rookie Isaiah Livers made it three NBA rookies with Michigan roots to play when he entered late in the third quarter. It was the first time for Livers, who won Michigan’s Mr. Basketball in 2017 while playing at Kalamazoo Central, appearing at Little Caesars Arena. His three previous appearances all came on the road. He finished with five points in six minutes, hitting 2 of 4 shots and 1 of 2 from the 3-point line.