In Cade Cunningham’s rookie season, Detroit Pistons fans are witnessing potential greatness in real-time, and it is up to Detroit Pistons fans to capture the little and big moments along his path. We are basketball cartographers and beyond-the-archeologists. As such, it is our duty to highlight specific plays. We are creating a historical record, and also providing the building blocks for an end-of-season retrospective. If you’d like to see the full historiography, visit the Cade Cunningham Highlights wing of our Pistons museum.
Cade Cunningham did it again, and Detroit Pistons fans should probably settle in and get used to it. In a game that saw 30 lead changes and that leeched into overtime, Cunningham led his team in points, shots, free-throw attempts and makes, assists, blocks and was second in rebounding.
He also scored seven of Detroit’s 12 points and assisted on another basket in the Pistons’ overtime win against the Atlanta Hawks. It marked the team’s third consecutive win and six in the past eight.
We already discussed Cunningham’s overtime prowess against the Washington Wizards from earlier in the season, noting that Cade stepped up in the big moment but couldn’t propel his team to victory through sheer force of will.
Well, the Pistons are figuring out this winning thing, and it’s on the back of a 20-year-old rookie already being asked to carry the offense. It’s not all on Cade, of course. Saddiq Bey continues to improve, Killian Hayes is providing a spark off the bench and Marvin Bagley is helping the offense flow a little better with his size and athleticism.
But a lot of credit must go to Cade’s talent and, perhaps more importantly, his poise. The dude never gets flustered. He needs to improve and still makes his share of mistakes, but he never panics. And it’s obvious he relishes the big moment.
Cunningham got the scoring started with a 3-pointer. He screened Trae Young who instead of sticking with Cunningham went chasing after Killian Hayes, which left Cade open for an easy catch-and-shoot. He then took advantage of a scrambling Atlanta defense despite the Hawks having a 4-on-5 advantage with Killian Hayes down injured on the other side of the floor. Atlanta pressured Cunningham at the timeline and also doubled Jerami Grant after a screen at the 3-point line. That left screener Bagley open at the top of the key.
Next was a much higher degree of difficulty driving hook shot/floater in the teeth of Atlanta’s defense. That hook was emblematic of his successes all night. He really attacked downhill and finished some tough looks. And that is perhaps the most welcome sight of the season considering that one of the biggest knocks on his game was his lack of athleticism pointing to difficulty finishing inside at the NBA level.
Cunninham’s shot distances on his eight 2-point field goals against the Hawks? They were: 3 feet, 2 feet, 2 feet, 2 feet, 2 feet, 3 feet, 8 feet, 2 feet, 6 feet. That points to an ability to get inside and finish and also successfully work in that in-between game with hooks and floaters.