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Pistons vs. Rockets Preview: Cade Cunningham vs. Jalen Green on national TV

Both Houston and Detroit seek an important second win on the young season

2021 Las Vegas Summer League - Detroit Pistons v Houston Rockets Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

Cade Cunningham vs. Jalen Green on national television. Need I say more?

While the debut of Cade Cunningham was highly anticipated, Detroit Pistons fans have had this game circled on their calendars ever since Jalen Green claimed; “I wanted to be the No. 1 pick, but as for the location, I didn’t want to be in Detroit.”

Entering Wednesday night, the Pistons and Houston Rockets have combined for only two wins and 17 losses. The duo currently boasts two of the three worst records in the league, which, in most circumstances would equate to some dull viewing.

However, while both teams are poor, this matchup still has plenty to offer. The main attraction is clear; the individual battle between Cunningham and Green, additionally, both teams have an abundance of young talent on their rosters, which should make for an exciting game.

Game Vitals

When: 7:30 p.m. ET
Where: Toyota Center, Houston, TX
Watch: Bally Sports Detroit or NBA League Pass
Odds: Pistons +1.5

Analysis

The past half-decade has been full of struggle for the Pistons, as fans we’ve been subjected to unwatchable offense, third-string point guards headed for the glue factory, “stretch five” Andre Drummond, a glorious season of prime Blake Griffin followed up by depressing washed Blake Griffin, lottery miss after lottery miss ... I mean, you get the point, but you also know that I could keep going.

Amid these struggles, one thing has remained a constant — the Pistons are incapable of winning a nationally televised game. Therefore, seeing as tonight’s game is the sole nationally broadcasted game of the season, I decided to conduct some light research on the team’s recent poor performances on national TV.

Since the 2016-2017 season, the Pistons have been televised on either ESPN or Tuner Studios (TNT) for a total of 15 games. In those matchups, the results are; 1 win and 14 losses, with an average losing margin of 19 points ... yep, it’s ugly.

The sole win came in 2018 against Lebron James’ Cleveland Cavaliers, just after the infamous Blake Griffin trade occurred. Of the 14 losses, three were less then 10 points, 8 were between 11-30 points and there were three games where the margin exceeded 30 points.

Hence, with the arrival of Cade Cunningham, tonight is a great chance to right the ship and provide us starved fans with a basketball team to be proud of.

Now, let’s focus on the match at hand. Both the Piston’s and Rocket’s come into tonight’s game looking for a morale boosting win.

The Rockets enter the night on an eight-game losing streak and are battling chemistry issues with their leading scorer Christian Wood. After a close loss to the Denver Nuggets on Saturday, Wood was asked about his matchup with Nikola Jokic and had this to say; “[It] wasn’t difficult ... I think it would have been better if I was more involved in the offense.” The following game against the Golden State Warriors, Wood was clearly passing up open looks in protest against his ‘lack of involvement’ in the offense:

However, it’s not all doom and gloom for this Rockets team, they boast an electrifying (if extremely inefficient) backcourt duo of Kevin Porter Jr. and Jalen Green. While the numbers aren’t in their favour, both Porter Jr. and Green are capable of making highlight plays in isolation situations. The jury is still out on whether Porter Jr. can develop efficiencies into his floor game to be an NBA-level point guard, but that doesn’t mean he can’t make ridiculous plays every now and then:

Another young player to keep your eye on for the Rockets is Alperen Sengun or, as he was known around DBB, Turkish guy. Coming off the bench for the Rockets, Sengun has shown his craftiness as an interior scorer, while also flashing his potential as a perimeter threat, shooting 41.7% on three-point tries. Sengun has also displayed a knack for disrupting the passing lanes, racking up 1.7 steals a game, in fact he has had four games where he has stripped opponents 3 times.

On the Pistons side of things, all eyes will be on the performance of Cade Cunningham. In the most recent game against the Brooklyn Nets, Cunningham was able to get his outside jumper going a little bit. Hopefully, the first overall pick can use tonight’s game to get the rest of his offensive game going and continue his strong play.

With the implementation of Cunningham into the lineup, the Pistons have been able to put on the floor a potentially versatile defense unit with Cunningham, Hayes, Bey, Grant and Stewart. This 5-man line-up ranks among some of the best in the NBA, as per NBA.com, the Pistons’ current starting five have a defensive rating of 99.2, ranking in the top 15 of the league. On the whole, Detroit has the 23rd-ranked defensive rating at 108.4. Coach Dwane Casey has expressed his interest in the defensive potential of this lineup, albeit on small sample size:

With the rough start to the season, it would seem clear to most that the Piston’s are headed toward the lottery for another high pick. Hence, a loss to another bottom dweller can be seen as a victory. But, it’s important this young group is able to win every so often to help maintain a level of confidence in themselves and the locker room.

I say all this to say, Cade Cunningham and the Pistons ought to make a fool of Jalen Green’s Rockets tonight.

Projected Lineups

Houston Rockets (1-9)

Kevin Porter Jr., Jalen Green, Jae’Sean Tate, Christian Wood, Daniel Theis

Detroit Pistons (1-8)

Killian Hayes, Cade Cunningham, Saddiq Bey, Jerami Grant, Isaiah Stewart

Question of the Day

Does Christian Wood’s recent behaviour validate Troy Weaver’s decision to let him walk in free agency?