The Detroit Pistons won’t have to wait long for an opportunity to pay back the Atlanta Hawks.
Atlanta handed Detroit its fourth straight loss, 118-113, on Wednesday. They’ll match up once again in Detroit on Friday.
Pistons coach Dwane Casey saw marked improvement from the previous night, when his team lost at Washington by 21 points.
“Like night and day, as far as execution, effort and defensive approach,” he said.
The Pistons led 100-99 midway through the fourth quarter. The Hawks then reeled off nine consecutive points and never relinquished the lead.
“We had some mishaps down the stretch, whether it was free throws or fouling,” Casey said. “I don’t think it was anything that was huge. I thought we executed down the stretch and got the shots we wanted and got to the free throw line. It’s just certain winning plays that we have to close the game with down the stretch (that we lacked).”
Bojan Bogdanovic and Cade Cunningham kept the Pistons close with their offensive punch. Bogdanovic, who played the last three seasons with perennial playoff team Utah, poured in 33 points and is averaging a team-best 23.2 points per game.
“He keeps the scoreboard moving and gives our defense a chance to really lock in,” Casey said.
Bogdanovic provides a veteran presence on a rotation mainly filled with first-, second- and third-year players.
“It’s fun to play with a guy like that, who has such a high IQ and cares about winning so much,” Cunningham said. “He’s obviously played a lot of high level basketball and knows a lot about the game.”
With backcourt partner Jaden Ivey out with a non-COVID illness, Cunningham attempted a season-high 25 field goals and scored 26 points. However, he also committed seven turnovers and didn’t score in the fourth quarter.
“I thought Cade got his confidence back (Wednesday), being in attack mode for most of the game,” Casey said.
So was Atlanta’s star guard, Trae Young, who scored 35 points. He attempted 17 free throws and made all but one.
Young was disappointed he didn’t score more off his 21 field goal attempts, making just one of his seven 3-point shots.
“I was able to kind of get into the lane early on in the night,” Young said. “I kind of helped get us going. But I still didn’t make as many shots as I wanted to and I had some really good looks, too, in the second half. I didn’t, to be honest with you, shoot the ball as efficient as I wanted to, and I know I’m just going to make more shots.”
Forward John Collins contributed 19 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks. Collins and center Clint Capela each grabbed six fourth-quarter rebounds while Detroit’s entire team only had seven.
Atlanta coach Nate McMillan used a nine-man rotation and got 10 points apiece out of reserves Aaron Holiday and Onyeka Okongwu.
“It’s still early and we’re still working on a rhythm and a chemistry and rotation,” McMillan said. “I want to find a way to give our starters less minutes. They’re playing pretty heavy minutes in these first few games. So coming up with a rotation, so that we can have a balanced (unit), is what we’re looking for.”
–Field Level Media