The Detroit Pistons held on for a 118-116 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder, narrowly beating them for the second time this preseason.
There were a lot of positives for Detroit, who used an active defense early to dictate the pace. Detroit’s size clearly bothered OKC early, as the Pistons racked up eight blocks, including five from their starters.
It was great to see most of the team back on the floor after Cade Cunningham and Jalen Duren both sat out game two. Three things instantly stood out in the rematch with OKC.
The Pistons getting to the free-throw line
The Pistons got to the free-throw line an outstanding 39 times, mostly due to their activity around the rim. They hit 32 of them and had an 11-point advantage at the line, which was the difference in the game.
The entire starting five got to the line at least two times each, and Marvin Bagley III and Marcus Sasser (14 free throws combined) continued the freebie parade. I’ve said a lot this offseason that free throws can be a weapon for Detroit, as they have athletic players who have the potential to draw a lot of fouls. If they can knock them down like they did last night, it will counterbalance some of their shooting and turnover struggles.
Cade Cunningham running the show
It was great to see Cade Cunningham back in the lineup and looking completely healthy. He really controlled the game early on, getting to wherever he wanted on the floor and setting up his teammates. The first 10 Pistons’ possessions led to multiple wide-open 3-point attempts (Ausar Thompson made two of them), a thunderous alley-oop dunk and two fouls on Chet Holmgren when Cade hit Duren going to the rim. Cade was under control and used his size to keep defenders off him while he waited for the play to develop. He had a couple of easy ones rattle out early, but his passing was what really stood out.
He started the game off the ball as well, which shows that it doesn’t really matter where he plays, he’s going to make plays.
The Pistons got out to a fast start and kept running
Detroit fell behind early in both of the first two games and needed big comebacks from the deep bench to even make it respectable. Last night the Pistons got out early and stepped onto the court with an energy and urgency that had been lacking. This was a HUGE problem for the Pistons last season, as they often looked like they had just woken up from a nap at the starts of games. This is why I love Ausar Thompson in the starting five, as his defensive energy and rebounding are a spark.
The Pistons also recorded 13 fast break points to just seven for the Thunder, so they were using their defense to create early offense, which is something they need considering their issues in the half court.