Cade, Cunningham
Jan 21, 2022; Salt Lake City, Utah, USA; Detroit Pistons guard Cade Cunningham (2) shoots the ball past Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (27) during the first quarter at Vivint Arena. Mandatory Credit: Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

Cade Cunningham is putting to rest any doubt that he’s number one pick worthy. When the Detroit Pistons won the lottery, there were questions if he should be the pick. And after a rough shooting night in his debut, people on social media did not hold back their concern. However, those concerns are put to rest. The coveted gem of the 2021 draft class has began to shine. Cade is playing the basketball of his young career. And he is growing right in front of our eyes. Despite the strong performance from Cunningham, the Pistons could not stop the Utah Jazz from getting to the free throw line. Ultimately, this would cost Detroit the game, losing 101-111.

Cade has the keys to the car, ready to be the number one guy

Ever since the injury of Jerami Grant, Cade Cunningham has been given the responsibilities of the number one option. And with that opportunity, Cunningham has proven to be worthy of the number one pick. He put up 25 points in 41 minutes. Cade is competing with a team that has championship aspirations. The Jazz, despite missing Donovan Mitchell (Concussion protocols) are an elite offensive team. Their offensive rating is 116.5, good enough for the top in the league. Detroit is dead last in the league at a rating of 102.4. Cunningham and his teammates, however, have began to turn the page on their rough start and are 6-6 since the new year.

Detroit as a team shot 44 percent from the field, and outside of Cade Cunningham, not many Pistons played well individually. Trey Lyles continues to shine off the bench with 16 points. Rodney McGruder has continued to excel in his return to the Pistons, finishing with 15 points shooting 50 percent from the field. Other Pistons like Saddiq Bey, however, had some rough shooting nights. Bey shot 5-14 from the field, and 11 of those shots were from 3. Saddiq made only three of them. Kelly Olynyk showed some rust in his second game back from injury. He shot 1-6 from the field, but contributed 5 assists in 19 minutes.

Pistons continue to draw fouls and give teams free points.

If there is an Achilles Heel of the Detroit Pistons, it is their tendency to draw fouls and sending teams to the free throw line. The Pistons allowed the Jazz to get to the line 34 times. This is following a win against the Sacramento Kings where Detroit allowed the Kings to shoot 44 three throws. The Pistons are competing and playing with increased spirit and energy on the defensive end. As a result, their youth is being taken advantage of. Cade Cunningham fouled out for the second game in a row. Detroit had all but one starter with 3 or more fouls, along with Trey Lyles off the bench. Even though they are playing better defense, there is no easier shot than the one that’s free.

The Utah Jazz were able to get going offensively, with Bogdan Bogdanovic going for 23 points. Rudy Gobert lead in scoring, with 24 points on 8-11 shooting from the field. His offensive game is overlooked, and the Jazz were able to bounce back offensively. Utah has struggled with injuries over the past month, being without both Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell together the entire time. Despite that, the Pistons were the perfect team for them to have a bounce back performance. They made the most of their opportunities to get to the line, and showed their intelligence throughout the night.

Despite those hurdles, the Pistons stayed competitive and close for the Jazz. Detroit did not allow them many attempts to be comfortable for them. They couldn’t hold on and let Utah pull away in the fourth. Despite the double digit loss, the Pistons put up a good fight, and was close to being 2-1 on a road trip that sees Detroit playing 4 teams in the west playoff picture.

Pair of games against Jokic and friends next week

The Detroit Pistons will next face the reigning MVP Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets on Sunday. They will play in Denver, and then play again in Detroit on Tuesday. Jokic, a second round pick, is an elite big who plays a unique game. His ability to handle, pass, and shoot with his frame is elite. He can score at all three levels, and makes his teammates better as well. He is consistent, he is efficient, and puts up historic numbers routinely. There is a potential that he could put up electric stats against the Pistons, and Isaiah Stewart will need to take that matchup personally.

Detroit is now .500 to start 2022, and are putting together competitive performances. Say what you will about Dwane Casey, but this team is fighting for him and his performances coaching and developing players is leading to success. This is a road trip that is showcasing growth of the Pistons, and the fact that they bounced back from the Golden State game shows progress. They will have the chance to head home with a 2-2 road trip on Sunday, and it will require a solid defensive performance. Cade Cunningham plays like that on Sunday? They have a chance.

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