In one of the franchise’s most anticipated nights of the last decade, Cade Cunningham and company treated the home crowd to the team’s first win on the young season. The now 1-4 Detroit Pistons were able to capitalize on a weary Orlando Magic team, who were coming off a hard-fought game against Toronto the night prior.
Early on, the debut of Cunningham sparked the Piston roster with a new found energy. In the first half alone, the Pistons hustled their way to 15 offensive boards. We even saw a pair of Jerami Grant offensive rebounds, which led to open threes for Saddiq Bey.
Perhaps the biggest takeaway from the first half was the defensive potential of a Cunningham-Hayes-Bey-Grant-Stewart lineup. The Magic felt the full effects of a Piston lineup averaging a seven-foot wingspan; the starting unit played a big part in the Magic shooting a putrid 37% from the field in the half.
With Cade inserted into the starting line up, we also saw the effects of having two playmakers share the court. After a slow first few possessions, we saw some improved ball and player movement, there were multiple instances where Cunningham came off baseline screens and launched three point attempts.
In the first half of action, Grant and Isaiah Stewart helped the Pistons take a 48-47 lead, with 12 and nine points, respectively. For Orlando, Franz Wagner continued his strong rookie play with nine points, showing great fluidity and versatility as a 6’9 wing.
The Magic came out firing to start the third quarter, with the Wagner brothers hitting four quick threes and scoring 19 points in six minutes, putting the Magic ahead by seven points halfway through the third. Additionally, the implementation of a zone by Orlando coach Jamahl Mosley gave the Piston offense fits and prevented them from generating any decent looks.
However, a mixed unit, led by Grant and Olynyk, helped inject some much needed ball movement and pesky defense, sparking a 25-9 run to close the third quarter. The Canadian trio of Joseph, Lyles, and Olynyk continued their strong play in the fourth, taking an 18 point lead at one point. The bench play was exceptional tonight, as the bench combined to score 49 points on the night, leading the Pistons to a 110-103 victory over the Magic.
Now, let’s get to the most interesting part of the night, the performance of Cade Cunningham. It didn’t take long for the former Oklahoma Cowboy to endear himself to the home crowd with an awesome defensive possession on Franz Wagner:
Early we saw Cunningham flash his defensive versatility, matching up with the Magic guards and wings:
It was encouraging to see the defensive play shown at from summer league carry over to real thing. The backcourt pairing of Cunningham and Hayes still has a lot of questions, however, after one game, it appears they can be defensively sound.
Another positive from Cunningham's play was his passing, particularly his ability to throw cross-court darts:
While he only finished with two assists, you can clearly see the passing ability Cunningham exhibits.
The one downside tonight was the shooting. Cunningham struggled from distance and, apart from a lefty layup, was unable to put any pressure on the rim. The first overall pick finished the night shooting 1-8. However, we’ll put that down to rust and adrenaline, as we saw in summer league that Cunningham can be a knock down shooter.
Fingers crossed that the coaching staff don’t put Cunningham on ice for tomorrow’s game in Brooklyn against the struggling 3-3 Nets.