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Pistons vs. Cavs preview: Cunningham vs. Mobley one final time

If Cade wants to wrest ROY away from Mobley he’ll have to do something special tonight

Cleveland Cavaliers v Detroit Pistons Photo by Brian Sevald/NBAE via Getty Images

Cade Cunningham is listed as probable to return tonight as the Detroit Pistons face the Cleveland Cavaliers. Cunningham missed the previous two games with a non-COVID illness. Cade back in the lineup means it is the final chance to see Cunningham and Evan Mobley go head to head. The two, along with Toronto Raptors forward Scottie Barnes, are battling it out for Rookie of the Year honors. Mobley got a huge head start with the sudden ascension of the Cavs and Mobley’s seamless fit and huge role in the team’s defense.

Cunningham struggled early after missing all of training camp and preseason to injury, but once he got his legs under him and his rhythm he cemented himself as one of the best rookies in the class. Lately, he’s taken that to an even higher level as the game slows down and he is understanding more and more how to score effectively even with all the attention on him.

Game Vitals

When: 8 p.m. ET
Where: Rocket mortgage Fieldhouse, Cleveland, Ohio
Watch: Bally Sports Detroit Extra
Odds: Pistons +6.5 per Draft Kings

Analysis

In three games against the Cavs, Cade and the Pistons are 2-1 on the season. Cunningham is averaging 15 points, 7.3 rebounds, 6.3 assists, 3.3 turnovers and 2.3 stocks against the Cavs. In the two games since Jan. 30, both Pistons wins, Cunningham recorded a triple-double (but only shooting 28% from the floor) and a 17-point, 6-rebound, 6-assist game on even lower efficiency (25%) but did get to the line 10 times.

The sweet spot for Cunningham to have any hopes of changing the narrative in the ROY of the year race would be to: 1. Win 2. Score more than 25 points 3. Dish at least 10 assists 4. shoot better than 50% from the field 5. Go into “takeover” mode in the game’s final minutes.

We’re not asking for too much are we?

Mobley, meanwhile, has not played his best basketball against the Pistons, but only because his best basketball is pretty transcendent. He is averaging 15.3 points, 8 rebounds and 1.7 assists while turning the ball over 2.3 times and amassing 4 stocks (thanks to 3.3 blocks) per game.

He’s never really put his imprint on any of the games, though each contest features a couple plays that show you why people are so high on Mobley — a block while playing helpside defense, a fluid turnaround jumper from the elbow, etc.

Of course, to win it’d be helpful for the Pistons to be at full strength and while Cunningham will be back and it looks like Jerami Grant and Rodney McGruder will follow, there are still plenty of injuries on Detroit’s ledger. Hamidou Diallo and Frank Jackson remain out and Killian Hayes is questionable with a head contusion.

Most importantly, we’ll be able to see what Saddiq Bey can do for an encore after scoring 51 points against the Orlando Magic on Thursday night.

Projected Lineups

Detroit Pistons (19-51)

Cory Joseph, Cade Cunningham, Saddiq Bey, Jerami Grant, Isaiah Stewart

Cleveland Cavaliers (40-30)

Darius Garland, Isaac Okoro, Lamar Stevens, Lauri Markanen, Evan Mobley

Question of the Game

Is your bracket busted?

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