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Pistons attempt to win season series vs. Cavaliers

Sportsnaut
Mar 17, 2022; Orlando, Florida, USA;  Detroit Pistons forward Marvin Bagley III (35) drives to the basket past Orlando Magic forward Ignas Brazdeikis (17) in the second quarter at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

If the Cleveland Cavaliers fall just short of their goal at the end of the year, they’ll know exactly where to look.

They have lost two of three games against the Detroit Pistons this season, with the teams’ final matchup coming on Saturday in Cleveland.

The Cavaliers head into the game on the tail end of a back-to-back set, having defeated the visiting Denver Nuggets 119-116 in overtime on Friday.

Cleveland beat Detroit 98-78 on Nov. 12, but the Pistons topped the Cavaliers 115-105 on Jan. 30 and 106-103 on Feb. 24.

Detroit snapped a four-game losing streak with a 134-120 road victory over the Orlando Magic on Thursday when forward Saddiq Bey erupted for a career-high 51 points.

He tied the franchise record with 10 3-pointers (on 14 attempts). Bey, who shot 17 of 27 from the field, had 21 points in the first quarter.

“I didn’t come into the game saying this is what I’m going to do, but you catch a rhythm and you get in a zone,” he said. “My teammates did a great job of finding me and just encouraging me to stay aggressive.”

He was the sixth different player in the NBA to have 50 or more points in March.

Power forward Marvin Bagley III, acquired at the trade deadline from the Sacramento Kings, added 20 points and 11 rebounds for Detroit. The 6-foot-11, 235-pounder has reached double figures in scoring in 10 of 11 games since coming to the Pistons and is averaging 17 in his past four contests.

He is starting to play like the No. 2 overall pick in the 2018 draft, which he was.

“People expected more, and it may take him a little longer to develop.” Detroit coach Dwane Casey said. “It’s probably a lot of factors. But, again, I’m glad he’s here. It’s a great opportunity. This league is about opportunity and taking advantage of it.”

Two other prized Pistons youngsters, Cade Cunningham (illness) and Hamidou Diallo (finger), missed the Orlando game with illnesses.

Jerami Grant (knee) missed the game against the Magic but is expected to be ready to face Cleveland.

The Cavaliers are still playing without Jarrett Allen (finger), Rajon Rondo (ankle) and Dean Wade (knee).

It might not be the perfect time for Cleveland to play a back-to-back, especially after a hard-fought victory that required an extra five minutes.

Denver took a five-point lead in overtime, but the Cavaliers wouldn’t quit.

“We continued to fight, continued to scrap,” Cleveland coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. “It all came down to heart. Down the stretch, each guy made a key play.”

The coach commended Lauri Markkanen, who had a season-high 31 points and 10 rebounds and defended Nuggets center Nikola Jokic. Markkanen’s 3-pointer with 28.3 seconds left in overtime handed Cleveland a 117-114 advantage it never relinquished.

“We don’t win that game without the performance of Lauri,” Bickerstaff said. “We are no way in this position (without Markkanen).”

The Cavaliers hold a one-game lead over the Toronto Raptors for sixth place in the Eastern Conference, the final spot that goes directly to the postseason and avoids the play-in tournament.

–Field Level Media