Cunningham’s late free throws lead Pistons over Cavaliers

DETROIT, MICHIGAN - FEBRUARY 24: Cade Cunningham #2 of the Detroit Pistons looks on in the first half while playing the Cleveland Cavaliers at Little Caesars Arena on February 24, 2022 in Detroit, Michigan. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) (Gregory Shamus, 2022 Getty Images)

DETROIT – Cade Cunningham hit four free throws in the final 46 seconds to lead the Detroit Pistons to a 106-103 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday night in the teams’ return from the All-Star break.

“That's a really good team and a model of what we want to build in the next few years,” Pistons coach Dwane Casey said. “That's what makes this a huge win for us.”

Lauri Markkanen split two free throws to put the Cavaliers up 103-102 with 1:01 to play before Cunningham made a pair to put Detroit back in front.

Jarrett Allen turned the ball over and Cunningham hit two more free throws to make it 106-103 with 28.3 seconds left.

Cleveland got three shots at a 3-pointer on the final possession, including a wide-open Brandon Goodwin look at the buzzer that rattled off the rim.

“We knew this was going to be a tough game that was going to come down to getting stops,” Goodwin said. “But give Detroit credit — they were more locked in tonight.”

Hamidou Diallo led Detroit with 21 points and Cunningham added 17.

“All night, it felt like this was going to be a game that would come down to who was fighting harder to get it,” said Diallo, who helped Detroit's second unit to 53 points. “Our group feels like we have to be just as good as the starters if this team is going to win games, and we're getting better at that.”

Markkanen, who had missed 11 games with an ankle injury, scored 12 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter.

“I was a little nervous because we’ve been playing so well and I didn't want to change that,” he said. “It took me a while to get back into a rhythm, but I felt better in the second half.”

Goodwin added 15 for the Cavaliers, who were without guards Darius Garland (back) and Caris LeVert (foot).

“I didn't think we had enough players who were locked into doing what we needed to do to win the game,” Cavaliers coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. “What's disappointing is that I felt like that's how we went into the break and now how we are coming out of it.”

The Cavaliers threatened to pull away in the first half, but missed eight free throws on their way to a 55-52 advantage. Detroit took the lead early in the third, but the Cavaliers came back with an 11-2 run to force Pistons coach Dwane Casey into a timeout.

Jeremi Grant’s 3-pointer finished off a 10-1 run to start the fourth quarter, giving Detroit a 90-83 lead with 9:12 to play. Cavaliers coach J.B. Bickerstaff called a timeout after the Pistons moved the advantage to eight points, but Rodney McGruder’s 3-pointer made it an 11-point game.

Markkanen’s fourth-quarter offense helped Cleveland cut the deficit to 102-99 with 2:34 left and, after a Mobley block, Isaac Okoro tied it with a 3-pointer.


Cavaliers: Cleveland announced plans to open a year-round sportsbook inside Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. The team announced a multiyear partnership with Caesars Entertainment to run the 10,000-foot gambling establishment, which is scheduled to open later this year.

Pistons: McGruder took four shots, all 3-pointers, and made all of them, giving him 12 points in 16 minutes. ... Marvin Bagley III had 16 points in his home debut with the Pistons.


Cavaliers: Host the Washington Wizards on Saturday.

Pistons: Host the Boston Celtics on Saturday.


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