DETROIT – It miraculously and unfortunately happened again.
The snake-bitten Dallas Mavericks played another team without its best player, and that team still found a way to emerge victorious. Thursday, it was Detroit playing without Arlington native Cade Cunningham, but the Pistons still had enough juice to defeat the Mavs, 131-125, in overtime before 18,106 at Little Caesars Arena.
In losing for the fifth time in their last six games, the Mavs fell to 10-11 on the season while the Pistons improved to 6-18. The Mavs will try and regroup against the Knicks in New York on Saturday at 11:30 a.m. Dallas time.
However, before that the Mavs must be scratching their head trying to figure out how they can defeat a healthy Golden State Warriors team that’s the defending world champions and sport at least three future Hall of Famers. But on the flip side, they have accumulated losses to teams – New Orleans, Orlando, Washington, Denver, Toronto and now Detroit – who’s best player(s) were sidelined while nursing various injuries when they faced the Mavs.
It’s like trying to figure out the criminal in a mystery movie. And these losses to short-handed teams void of their top player(s) is definitely a sore spot.
“I can’t put my finger on that,” said center Christian Wood, who contributed 25 points and eight rebounds. “I think we’re even still trying to figure that out as a team.
“But if we just stay together and pick each other up, especially after losses like this, we’ll be good.”
Sadly, the Mavs’ problems on Thursday were compounded by the fact that they were just 14-of-29 from the free throw line and got outrebounded, 52-30, in a game where they shot 53.5 from the field and 41.3 percent from three-point range.
After recovering from a 12-point deficit late in the third quarter and forcing overtime at 117, the Mavs carried that momentum into the overtime session, where they led, 123-119, with 3:22 remaining. But along came Killian Hayes to crash the Mavs’ party and set in motion a game-ending 12-2 run by the young Pistons.
Wood knotted the game at 125 apiece on a dunk with 1:35 left. But those were the last points the Mavs could muster.
From there, Hayes found the bottom of the net on a three-pointer for a 128-125 Detroit lead with 1:15 to go. And following a missed three-pointer by Tim Hardaway Jr., Hayes again knocked down a three-pointer with 41.6 seconds remaining to seal the game.
“He knocked down a lot of long twos and contested twos,” said Hardaway, who tallied 26 points and was 6-of-14 from three-point land. “When you knock down contested twos you’ve got to shake the guy’s hands, especially when you try to get tough on him.
“But when a guy sees the ball go in the basket a couple of times — a couple of floaters here and there — the guy gains confidence, and that’s what happened tonight for him. He did a great job with his pace and getting his guys involved and being determined.”
Wood, who played for the Pistons during the 2019-20 season, was also determined to help the Mavs win consecutive games for the first time since they beat Portland the Los Angeles Clippers on Nov. 12 and Nov. 15, respectively.
With the Mavs down 97-85 late in the third quarter, it was Wood who ignited a 15-4 rally with eight points that gave Dallas a short-lived 104-103 lead with 7:50 left in the fourth quarter.
“That’s just what they brought me here is to score and to do things like that when we’re looking for shots,” said Wood, who was 10-of-13 from the field. “Offensively, they want me to try to pick the team up, and I think I did a good job of attacking and trying to get guys involved when the pressure was on me and trying to just figure things out.
“In the fourth I brought us back, and it just wasn’t enough tonight. I have to better, especially on the rebounds tonight.”
Luka Doncic collected 35 points, five rebounds, 10 assists and three steals for the Mavs. The Pistons led, 117-109, with just 1:47 left in regulation play before Hardaway drilled a three-pointer, Doncic first missed a pair of freebies, but then connected on a massive three-pointer.
A bucket inside by Reggie Bullock tied the game at 117 with just 22.6 seconds to go. And once the Mavs got off to a nifty start in overtime it appeared as though they were going to have the necessary tools to nail down a victory.
But. . .
“We fought,” coach Jason Kidd said. “This is no different than Toronto or anybody else we’re playing right now. We’re playing a lot of four-on-three and we’ve got to be able to make open shots and not turn the ball over.
“Our team defense has to be better. We have to help each other. We’re giving up a lot of rebounds. It comes down to effort, and that’s something that we’ll talk about tomorrow.”
Bojan Bogdanovic paced the Pistons with 30 points and converted 5-of-6 three-pointers, and rookie guard Jaden Ivey (16 points, six rebounds) also hit some key baskets down the stretch. As a whole, the Pistons shot a season-best 54.3 percent from the field, made 42.9 percent (25-of-35) of their three-pointers and enjoyed a 13-4 advantage on the offensive boards.
Meanwhile, the game was tied at 36 after the first quarter, and Detroit led 61-60 at the half and 99-89 after three quarters. This was not the type of defense the Mavs were proud of.
“It’s a hard loss, but we see where we can improve,” Wood said. “We got outrebounded tonight.
“It shouldn’t even have gotten to overtime. I think we have to pick it up on the defensive end and start the game a little bit better, but we’ll figure it out.”
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