Detroit Pistons: Good, bad and ugly in frustrating loss to Cavaliers

Killian Hayes #7 of the Detroit Pistons (Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images)
Killian Hayes #7 of the Detroit Pistons (Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images) /

The Detroit Pistons were missing four starters last night and were just back in the Eastern time zone after a six game road trip, so this wasn’t a game they were supposed to win.

Someone forgot to tell the Pistons, as they held the Cleveland Cavaliers off for three quarters before finally collapsing in a game that they probably should have won.

The Pistons were still missing Cade Cunningham, Isaiah Stewart, Jaden Ivey and Bojan Bogdanovic joined them after leaving the game late against the Suns with a knee injury.

Detroit had Rodney McGruder in the starting lineup if you want to know the depths of their desperation last night, yet, they still played a tight game that they should have won. The Pistons have been coming on of late and competing in close games, which is a good sign for the glorious day that they are fully healthy, if that day ever comes.

There was plenty to like about this game, but there was also some ugliness in the frustrating loss.

Detroit Pistons vs. Cleveland Cavaliers: The Good

Killian Hayes showing resilience

Killian Hayes struggled at points in the first half, but ended the game with 16 points, eight assists, three rebounds, two steals and a block and was really the only player to show up in the 4th quarter for Detroit.

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There was one stretch that really symbolized Hayes’ recent turnaround, as he had a tough few minutes towards the end of the half and the Pistons had to call timeout as the Cavaliers had momentum. Hayes came back into the game and promptly scored the next five points before setting up Marvin Bagley III for a 3-pointer to end the half.

Early in the season Hayes would let a bad few minutes get to him, but he is playing with a lot more confidence now and doesn’t look like the same guy. He was running the PnR with poise and without rushing, stepping into his 3-point shots and even looked comfortable at the rim in the 4th quarter.

If there has been one positive from all of these injuries, it’s that Killian Hayes has found himself and has turned his season (and possibly career) around.

Detroit Pistons vs. Cleveland Cavaliers: The Bad

The 4th quarter

The good news about the 4th quarter is that Killian Hayes scored seven points. The bad news is that the rest of the team only managed nine.

After leading for virtually the entire game, the Cleveland Cavaliers put the clamps on the Pistons in the 4th and held them to just 16 points on 31 percent shooting.

Saddiq Bey, Isaiah Livers and Marvin Bagley III combined to go 0-of-7 in the 4th, as the Pistons made just six shots, three of them by Hayes.

Part of this was the Cavaliers’ defense, but the Pistons also went away from the ball movement that had worked early on and took too many isolation shots. This is a product of not really having a “go-to” guy with all of their top scorers on the bench in street clothes.

Detroit Pistons vs. Cleveland Cavaliers: The Ugly

Free throws

As bad as the 4th quarter was, the Pistons still would have won the game if they had just made some free throws.

The Pistons lead the NBA in free-throw attempts, but it doesn’t much matter when you only make 53 percent of them, or roughly what I would make in my driveway if I were blindfolded.

The Cavaliers not only got to the line way more in this one, but actually made them, outscoring the Pistons by 14 at the line in a game that was ultimately decided by eight points.

This simply cannot happen in a game where you are missing four starters, as points were at a premium and Detroit was leaving them at the line again and again. Everyone who played last night missed at least one free throw except Killian, Rodney McGruder and Kevin Knox, who didn’t attempt any.

It’s a frustrating way to lose a shorthanded game in which a lot of things went right for Detroit. Their play has picked up in recent weeks but the Pistons still need a lot of work on the little things, and aren’t going to win many games in which they miss 12 free throws.

The Pistons continue their home stand tomorrow against the New York Knicks.

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