Summer League: Detroit Pistons fall to Rockets in first Cade Cunningham-Jalen Green matchup

Detroit Free Press

LAS VEGAS — It was the most anticipated game of the NBA Summer League: Cade Cunningham vs. Jalen Green. The first overall pick in this year’s draft against the second overall pick for the first time.

The matchup drew a nearly packed crowd at the Thomas & Mack Center, though the Pistons’ poor outside shooting doomed them for the second consecutive game.

The Detroit Pistons lost, 111-91, as the Houston Rockets’ three first-round picks in 2021 (Green, Alperen Sengun and Josh Christopher) combined for 61 points on 20-for-37 shooting, and Green led all scores with 25 points. Detroit shot just 7-for-35 from behind the arc, despite many of the attempts being open.

FIRST THING’S FIRST: Here’s the Pistons’ to-do list after Cade Cunningham’s Summer League debut

Cunningham led the Pistons with 20 points (8-for-18 shooting) to go with four rebounds, three steals and two assists.

Cade Cunningham looks more comfortable

Cunningham’s pro debut on Sunday drew mixed reviews. He was solid defensively and hit consecutive 3’s in the first quarter to get on the board, but struggled to score the ball overall.

Tuesday was a stronger outing as he looked much more relaxed. There were a few warts — most of his 3-pointers were contested (4-for-9), and he had a couple of sloppy turnovers. But Detroit’s lack of spacing didn’t do him any favors. He should’ve had more than two assists, but the Pistons shot 20% from 3 and many of the open looks he generated didn’t fall.

At the very least, his crossover and 3 over Green will be popular on social media.

JD DuBois switches up rotation

Deividas Sirvydis and Balsa Koprivica made their debuts, and Cunningham and Hayes’ minutes were more staggered after spending the entire first half playing together against the Thunder.

Sirvydis, who was waived in July but still joined Detroit’s Summer League roster, struggled. He missed all five of his 3-point attempts, and most of them were open looks. His lone make was a 3-point play toward the end of the first quarter, off of a nice pass from Luka Garza.

Koprivica, who wasn’t eligible until the Charlotte Hornets trade became official last Friday, participated in warm-ups on Tuesday after sitting on the bench on Sunday. He only played three minutes, but managed to finish a layup not long after checking in midway through the second quarter. The Pistons were out-rebounded by Houston, 40-35, and he could have an opportunity to give Detroit some needed depth at center.

Killian Hayes impresses on defense

Green was regarded as one of the most gifted athletes in the 2021 draft, possessing a quick first step and strong leaping ability.

Hayes isn’t quite as gifted an athlete, but he showed great anticipation on defense as a rookie last season. It’s carried over to summer league. He was Green’s primary defender on multiple possessions, and did a great job shuffling his feet and using smart angles to stay in front of him.

He’s a pest on defense, and it enables him to add value on the floor even when his shot isn’t falling. Hayes showed good touch from short-midrange for the second-straight game, getting a few floaters to fall. But he’s yet to hit a 3-pointer through two games, as he went 0-for-4 from deep Tuesday. Hayes has been working with John Beilein all summer to improve his shooting mechanics, and it appears to still be a work-in progress.

Saddiq Bey continues to hunt for his shot

Largely a catch-and-shoot gunner last season, Bey has been given the green light to create his own offense. Whenever he received the ball, he often isolated his defender and operated inside the arc, with turnaround and fadeaway jumpers being his preferred moves.

He’s had some success with it, showcasing improved footwork and patience.

Most shooters in the NBA operate within that niche and don’t look to get their own shots, so it’s nice to see Bey could be improving in that area. The Pistons are giving him a chance to prove it can be a featured part of his game.

Luka Garza, proven scorer

It isn’t a surprise that one of the best scorers in Big Ten history hasn’t had many issues scoring the ball.

He hit a Dirk Nowitzki-esque one-legged fadeaway toward the end of the first, and cut the deficit to 10 early in the fourth quarter after hitting a 3-pointer and getting a tip-in on back-to-back possessions. Given that the Pistons have struggled to score the ball, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him secure an even larger role before the summer league  schedule is over. He came off of the bench and played 16 minutes on Tuesday.

Contact Omari Sankofa II at Follow him on Twitter @omarisankofa. The Free Press has started a new digital subscription model. Here’s how you can gain access to our most exclusive Pistons content. Read more on the Detroit Pistons and sign up for our Pistons newsletter.

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