HOUSTON — The first matchup between Cade Cunningham and Jalen Green ended exactly how the Detroit Pistons wanted it to — with a mark in the win column.
Behind a season-best performance from Jerami Grant, the Pistons defeated the Houston Rockets at Toyota Center, 112-104. The Pistons improved to 2-8 overall. Grant scored 35 points (21 in the third quarter) and added five rebounds, three assists and a pair of blocked shots. Cunningham scored 20 points (8-for-18 shooting, 4-for-8 from 3), and Bey scored 16.
Green led the Rockets with 23 points (8-for-20 shooting, 3-for-11 from 3) and former Piston Christian Wood added 20 points and nine rebounds.
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Big quarter from Grant puts Pistons in control
Cunningham and Green were the headline matchup, but no one had a better night than Grant. His 21 third-quarter points set his career high for points in a single quarter.
Grant made his first four shots of the period, and scored Detroit’s first 10 points to tie the game at 59. He gave the Pistons the lead for good at the 3:43 mark of the third, knocking down a free throw after Green was whistled for chirping at Cunningham following a dunk. Grant added to the lead a minute later with a midrange jump shot, his 18th and 19th points of the quarter.
Cunningham vs. Green provides excitement
Toward the end of the third quarter, Green made one of the most exciting plays of the night by blowing past Cunningham and finishing an athletic dunk. He made sure Cunningham knew it, turning around to shout a few words in his direction. The refs heard whatever Green said, and whistled him for a technical foul.
It was the type of energy fans had been looking forward to. Cunningham and Green have had an unofficial rivalry since they went Nos. 1-2 overall in the 2021 draft. Green has taken shots at the Pistons from afar, stating that he should’ve gone No. 1, and that he didn’t want to live in Detroit.
Green’s tech ended up giving the Pistons the lead for good. The Rockets threatened a late comeback, but Cunningham ended up having the last laugh. He knocked down a 3-pointer with under four minutes to play in the fourth to snap a 10-0 Houston run and extend the Pistons’ lead to 103-96. With 1:50 left in the fourth, Cunningham got to the rim for a layup to give Detroit a 108-104 advantage. And with about 15 seconds remaining, he found Bey for a wide-open transition layup to ice the game for good.
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