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Mar 31, 2024 1:19 pm

Pistons lean on Cade Cunningham with Grizzlies up next

cade cunningham

Wins have come in dribs and drabs for the Detroit Pistons this season. Their chances are always enhanced when Cade Cunningham is on the court.

That was reinforced on Friday, when Cunningham piled up 33 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and two steals in 37 minutes as Detroit (13-61) defeated Washington, 96-87. The Pistons will shoot for consecutive victories when they host the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday night.

Cunningham, who sat out most of last season after undergoing shin surgery, has missed 13 games this season due to knee soreness. He has been a part of nine of their victories, averaging 24.7 points and 7.8 assists in those contests.

His presence on the court is even more valuable now due to constant roster upheaval since the All-Star break. It’s anyone’s guess who will play and who will sit out from game to game.

“I put a lot on his shoulders,” coach Monty Williams said. “With all the injuries and the balance (of players) that we have, new guys on the floor, he takes on a bigger role. That’s just the way it is. And I think it’s great for him to show his leadership, show his value and he carried us (Friday). … Those two (Cunningham and backcourt partner Jaden Ivey) are pillars for us and it’s great for them to be in those moments. Since we’ve had Cade back, we’ve gotten off to better starts.”

Detroit established a 59-40 lead against the Wizards by halftime, but nothing ever comes easy for the Pistons. They were outscored 35-21 in the third quarter before limiting the Wizards to 12 fourth-quarter points.

“We all would have liked to come out in the third quarter like an old school veteran team and played eight minutes of solid basketball and increase the lead to 25 or 30, then just play solid basketball from then on, but we don’t have that kind of team,” Williams said. “The lessons are valuable. I thought the poise we showed in the timeouts was a sign of growth for us. Evan (Fournier) was a big facilitator of that and Cade took ownership of what was going on.”

Detroit snapped an eight-game losing streak by beating Washington. Memphis (24-50) has lost seven of its last eight games.

The Grizzlies, like the Pistons, have been dealing with injuries throughout the season. They just signed guard Zavier Simpson on a 10-day contract using the hardship exception to ensure they have enough bodies.

Simpson played nine minutes in Memphis’ 118-88 loss at Orlando on Saturday. Jaren Jackson Jr. was held to four points, 18 below his average, and four rebounds.

Jordan Goodwin, who is on a two-way contract, led the Grizzlies in scoring (16 points) and rebounds (11).

The Magic led 58-34 at halftime.

“They dictated a lot with their defense,” Memphis coach Taylor Jenkins said. “(We) couldn’t get in the paint, couldn’t knock down an open shot. That set the tone. The Magic had an answer for everything. They had so many guys step up and play well.”

The Grizzlies shot 25.6 percent in the first half and 36 percent for the game.

“They jumped on us pretty quickly and got control of the game early,” guard Luke Kennard said. “We couldn’t really fight back right away.”

–Field Level Media

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