Phantastic Phinish: Pistons dominate Philly in 4th to win

Three quick observations from Thursday night’s 102-94 win over the Philadelphia 76ers at Little Caesars Arena

PHANTASTIC PHINISH – After three quarters against a team fighting for the No. 1 seed in the East, the Pistons were being outscored 22-8 at the foul line, shooting 20 percent from three and being outrebounded by five. Yet they trailed by only six points. And then they put together arguably their most impressive quarter of the season, outscoring Philadelphia 29-15 to hand the 76ers a stinging defeat. The Pistons forced five fourth-quarter turnovers and held Philadelphia to 6 of 16 shooting The Pistons took their first lead of the game midway through the fourth quarter, then took it to a six-point margin off consecutive triples from Isaiah Livers and Saddiq Bey . Philadelphia began the night in a four-way battle with Miami, Milwaukee and Boston for any of the top four seeds in the Eastern Conference, Miami holding a one-game lead on the Bucks and two on the 76ers and Celtics. The Pistons were outscored 18-4 at the foul line in the first half and shot 22 percent from the 3-point line, yet trailed by just four points, 54-50. Bey’s streak of games with a 3-pointer lives on as he hit 4 of 12 and scored 22 points to run it to 51 straight.

FALLS CARRYING OVER – Cade Cunningham picked up where he left off at Brooklyn, when he did the bulk of his scoring in the game’s last 16 minutes. He kept the Pistons close during the first quarter, hitting 3 of 5 shots in the early going while his teammates hit 1 of 10. Cunningham scored 14 first-half points on 7 of 10 shooting, making him 18 of 25 since scoring his first basket of the second half in Tuesday’s 130-123 loss at Brooklyn. He finished with 27 points, six assists and four steals, hitting 12 of 20 shots.

Cunningham matched his season high with 34 points in that game despite bruising his tailbone in a first-quarter tumble, sitting out almost all of the second quarter and still having just five points until the 3:27 mark of the third quarter. He scored 12 of the final 14 Pistons points of the third quarter and added 17 in the fourth, hitting 11 of 15 shots over that span.

LIVERS RETURNS – Isaiah Livers looked like he didn’t miss a step after sitting out the past four games with a concussion suffered in the March 21 loss to Portland. Livers, playing in only his 14th game after sitting out all but one of the season’s first 60 games dealing with rehabilitation and subsequent recurring pain from last spring’s foot surgery that ended his Michigan career in the 2021 Big Ten tournament, continues to thrust himself into the conversation to be a part of next season’s puzzle. In 21 minutes after being sidelined for 10 days, Livers scored nine points, hitting 3 of 4 triples, and also picked up two assists. His third triple di lui, with 5:05 to play, gave the Pistons a 90-87 lead. Livers seems to make a play or two in every appearance that he speaks to the basketball IQ Dwane Casey has raved about. One stood out in the third quarter when he opportunistically came to double team Joel Embiid and forced a jump ball. Another came with three minutes left when he hustled back to break up a pass that would have resulted in a Philadelphia layup. Casey says he jokingly told Livers recently not to get “Walled Pipp’d” – a reference to the incumbent New York Yankees first basemen whose injury opened the door for Hall of Famer Lou Gehrig – by Braxton Key, playing on a 10-day contract and making an impression of his own. Key has also generally made a good impression – he’s a solid defender, runs the floor well, capably puts the ball on the floor – but after making nearly 40 percent of his threes in the G League and hitting 2 of 3 in his three previous games , he went 1 of 5 from the arc and 2 of 7 against Philadelphia. But his one make of him was a big one just before exiting the game in the fourth quarter, pulling the Pistons within three.

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