Pistons go wire-to-wire with Bucks but fall short, 110-108
Milwaukee — After trailing by as many as 16 points at the end of the third quarter, the Pistons showed resilience and battled back against the undefeated Milwaukee Bucks in a wire-to-wire game on Monday night.
Cade Cunningham, who led his team with 27 points, had two prime looks towards the end of regulation but couldn't knock down his patented mid-range shot, nor a 3-pointer that would've tied the game at 108.
Instead, the Bucks were the recipients of late-game free throws and ultimately defeated the Pistons 110-108 in a thriller inside the Fiserv Forum, the first of two games against Detroit this week.
"Another step forward," Pistons coach Dwane Casey said. "We've gotta learn how to win those games. The decisions and just the togetherness we showed in the second half was big time. I loved the fight, the grit we showed against, I would say, the best team in the NBA right now."
The Pistons held the tall task of facing the team with the best record in the NBA on Monday, one night after they pulled an upset over the Golden State Warriors. The battle-tested Bucks had yet to be defeated after five games into the season, and their unbeaten claim was challenged late in the fourth quarter.
Isaiah Stewart tied the game at 105 with 57 seconds left after a layup assisted by Cunningham, which set the stage for the clutchest shot of the night. Bucks guard Jrue Holiday nailed a stepback 3-pointer over Jaden Ivey to give Milwaukee a 108-105 lead that would eventually seal the Bucks' sixth straight win.
The loss drops the Pistons to 2-6, and 1-14 overall to the Bucks over the last four seasons (since 2018-19).
Milwaukee's win streak as the only undefeated team in the league continued due to stellar play from their "Big 3" of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Holiday and Lopez.
Antetokounmpo, who was named the Eastern Conference Player of the Week earlier that day, continued his dominance on both sides of the ball and finished with 31 points, seven rebounds and two blocks. Before Holiday's late-game heroics, the veteran point guard got the Bucks going early on and scored 13 of his 25 points in the first quarter. He added 10 assists made five of his 11 3-point attempts.
Lastly, Lopez made the most of his height advantage and did most of his damage inside the paint with 24 points and nine rebounds.
The Pistons pulled within one point of the Bucks at the start of the third quarter, but entered an offensive drought as they had six consecutive trips down the floor without scoring. During this time, the Bucks went on a 9-0 run and reclaimed a 10-point lead. Detroit didn't back down in the midst of their struggles to score the basketball. Ivey, who finished with 19 points and seven rebounds, kept the Pistons afloat in the end of the third quarter.
Cunningham finished with a team-high 27 points, six rebounds and seven assists. He scored 19 points in the first half by showing his usual skillset to connect on mid-range jumpers, while mixing in his 3-point shot. He made his first three triples of the night, but missed his final six 3-pointers, including a rhythm triple that would've tied the game.
Casey said he was weighing whether or not to call a timeout to draw up a set play before Cunningham's 3-pointer.
"Once I saw us advance the ball up the floor and had the opportunity to advance it to Saddiq (Bey), I don't know if I could've drawn up a better play for Cade to be open," Casey said. "The shot before that, he was wide open in his sweet spot so I'll live with that. I'll live with that 24/7 with Cade taking that shot and Bogey having the ball in transition."
The Pistons defended Antetokounmpo surprisingly well early in the game. The former MVP was limited to just one four points in the first quarter. However, he scored 10 consecutive points in the second quarter and caught a groove, offensively as he finished at the basket and caught alley-oops from his teammates.
The Pistons were without the services of Jalen Duren, who sprained his ankle in Sunday's game against the Warriors. In his absence, veteran center Nerlens Noel made his long-awaited season debut. He played 18 minutes and finished with two points, four rebounds and one blocked shot, which occurred on his first defensive possession.