Cade Cunningham’s delayed NBA debut didn’t go according to plan.
The top pick in the 2021 draft was supposed to inject some life into the Detroit Pistons’ moribund offense. Cunningham fell into his own offensive malaise, but his teammates found their groove while he was resting during the second half.
The Pistons collected their first victory in five games this season, pulling away from Orlando, 110-103, on Saturday at Little Caesars Arena.
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Cunningham missed the Pistons’ first four games with an ankle injury. He played 19 minutes Saturday, mostly in the first half, and scored just two points while shooting 1-for-8 from the field. He grabbed seven rebounds and dished out two first-half assists.
The Pistons scored 62 second-half points while breaking into the win column. Jerami Grant led the way with 22 points, seven rebounds and five assists, while Kelly Olynyk supplied 18 points, five rebounds, four assists and three steals coming off the bench.
Cade plays board game in first half
The crowd roared when Cunningham was announced during the pregame introductions and virtually every time he touched the ball. He missed all five of his shot attempts during the first quarter but made other contributions, grabbing six rebounds and dishing out two assists.
His first NBA assist came when he retrieved an offensive rebound in the corner and fired a pass to Saddiq Bey, who drilled a 3-pointer from the wing. He also set up Isaiah Stewart for a transition layup before getting a rest.
He scored his first and only basket with 5:10 left in the half on a driving layup.
Cunningham played less than five minutes in the third quarter after continuing to struggle at the offensive end. Orlando led by as much as seven during the quarter but the Pistons went on a 19-1 run with the rookie on the bench to take a 12-point lead in the closing seconds of the third.
Suggs has rough night as well
Former Gonzaga star Jalen Suggs, who was taken four picks after Cunningham, often matched up against the top pick.
Both lottery picks essentially shut each other down in the first half. Suggs missed all four of his field goal attempts before halftime, with his only points coming on two free throws.
Suggs didn’t score from the field until back-to-back layups early in the third. Those came after he swiped the ball from Cunningham and the Pistons rookie then clanged the side of the backboard on a 3-point try.
Suggs, who had a shot swatted by Isaiah Stewart in the first half, airballed a 3-pointer with Cunningham on the bench in the fourth quarter. Suggs finished the night with 10 points on 3-for-13 shooting and added six assists.
Wagners carry the Magic
The Wagner brothers returned to the state on the same day that their alma mater suffered a heart-wrenching football loss in East Lansing.
Franz Wagner, drafted No. 8 in this year’s draft after two seasons at Michigan, scored a season-high 19 points on 8-for-15 shooting.
Older brother Mo entered the game late in the first half and soon hit a corner 3. He wound up with 13 points and five rebounds.
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