Luka Doncic had a message for the Detroit Pistons and their fans Wednesday night at Little Caesars Arena. To paraphrase an infamous recent statement by Will Smith, “Keep my (redacted) name out of your (redacted) mouth.” Instead of a slap, though, Doncic just pulled off ridiculous shots and slick passes throughout the Dallas Mavericks’ 131-113 victory over the Pistons.
While it’s hard to quantify the array of skills Cunningham pulls off as a rookie for the Pistons, perhaps it is unfair to compare him to Doncic, and the do-it-all forward showed you why on Wednesday.
He scored 26 points to go with 14 assists and eight rebounds against a shorthanded and overmatched Pistons team. The aforementioned Cunningham did his best to keep up, but he couldn’t match Doncic’s heroics.
The Rookie of the Year candidate again shouldered the entire Pistons offense with Cunningham leading Detroit in minutes (38), shots (19), points (25) free throws (a career-high 11), assists (9), and turnovers (5).
A bench unit made up largely of G-Leaguers did their best to keep up, and they did play well in spurts, but Dallas was able to go on a couple of sustained runs that kept its margin comfy and eventually put the game out of reach in the fourth quarter.
Two-way players Braxton Key and Jamorko Picket scored 14 and 10 points apiece on a combined 9-of-11 shooting. Saben Lee added 11 points and 4 assists of his own off the bench.
But nothing could stand in the way of the Doncic show, and his play elevated everyone around him. Nine Mavericks scored at least 9 points and they shot 56% from the floor and nailed 45% of their 3s (15-of-33).
Perhaps I could have just saved everyone a bunch of valuable reading time by replacing the game recap with this GIF. It really tells the whole story of what went down during the game.
In fairness, however, I feel compelled to show you my favorite defensive possession for Cade. Cunningham’s defense is an oft-overlooked part of his Rookie of the Year case, and he really put on the full display when he manned up against Doncic.
The recently red-hot Saddiq Bey struggled shooting just 1-of-11 from the floor but did manage to dish 5 assists. Isaiah Stewart continued his end-of-season scoring punch with 19 points including going 3-of-3 from deep and adding 14 rebounds. After struggling in the first half, Killian Hayes managed to put another double-digit scoring game on his ledger and added four rebounds, two assists, and two steals.
The loss ends Detroit’s three-game win streak, which will go down as the season’s longest. The Pistons have two games remaining this season —a Friday matchup against the Milwaukee Bucks for the season’s last home game and the capper on the road in Philadelphia against a 76ers team that may or may not have anything to plaly for.