‘Big-time team win’: Cunningham leads the way in Pistons’ first Summer League victory

Detroit News

Las Vegas — The Pistons weren’t going to let this one get away.

After holding big leads in each of their first two Summer League games, they jumped out to another big lead against the New York Knicks.

This time, they held on — barely.

They needed a superlative performance from Cade Cunningham, led the way with 24 points — including 7-for-10 on 3-pointers — and helped the Pistons get their first win of Summer League, 93-87, over the Knicks on Friday night at Thomas & Mack Center.

Cunningham didn’t do it alone. Jamorko Pickett chipped in 18 points, Saddiq Bey had 15 points, 13 rebounds and four assists and Luka Garza added 10 points, 12 rebounds and five blocks for the Pistons (1-2), who play the second game of a back-to-back on Saturday against the Lakers.

“It was a big-time team win today,” Cunningham said. “That’s what we needed, I think, as far as just trying to go into the right direction and building, so they got close and I just tried to put us ahead.”

The Pistons led by 19 points early in the fourth quarter and looked to be on the way to an easy victory, but the Knicks (2-2) didn’t fold. Behind Obi Toppin, who had 23 of his 31 points in the second half, they made it interesting, trimming the lead to three points in the final 30 seconds.

Cunningham made some key baskets when the Knicks were rallying and showed why he was the top pick in the draft. He hit five of his 3-pointers in the second half, including two straight in the fourth quarter to help slow the Knicks.

“With Cade, a skill set that you may not see on the stat sheet is just his want-to. He wants to have the ball; he wants to be in position to make plays,” Pistons Summer League coach J.D. DuBois said.

“When you’re in situations where you need him, he loves to step up to that challenge and that’s why we have him at No. 1, because he’s a guy who will continue to improve in those areas, but you know he does want the ball in those tough situations.”

The Pistons jetted to a 20-6 lead, with 11 points from Pickett, in the first seven minutes, for a 20-6 lead. The Knicks closed to within 33-31 near the end of the second quarter, but Cunningham hit a 3-pointer to push the lead to five.

The Pistons opened the third quarter with a 19-4 run, but the Knicks didn’t relent and got within nine at the 4:49 mark of the fourth quarter. Cunningham hit two straight 3-pointers and Bey followed with another for an 85-69 lead with 2:11 left.

The Knicks kept pressing and got within three in the final 30 seconds, but Saben Lee (15 points) hit four free throws to help put the game away.

Rod.Beard@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @detnewsRodBeard

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