Cade Cunningham ejected, Detroit Pistons lit up by Devin Booker and Phoenix Suns, 135-108

Detroit Free Press

Phoenix Suns star Devin Booker drew one of the biggest reactions from the Little Caesars Arena crowd Sunday, when the Grand Rapids native rose off two feet for a one-handed putback slam in the third quarter.

Cade Cunningham one-upped him on the following possession, driving baseline for a one-handed reverse dunk over Cameron Payne and Jalen Smith. Then the referees blew a whistle, and an exciting game was effectively brought to an end.

After the dunk, Cunningham gave an exaggerated point toward the Detroit Pistons bench. It wasn’t clear if Cunningham was pointing to his teammates or to Payne or Smith, but it was enough for him to pick up his second technical foul. He was ejected for the first time in his career, and the NBA-leading Suns handed the Pistons a 135-108 blowout loss

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The Pistons (10-32) were down 20 points after Cunningham’s dunk, but the game was more exciting than the score suggested. Cunningham and Booker were in the midst of a duel, as the rookie finished with 21 points on 9-for-15 shooting in 24 minutes. Booker scored 30 points through the three quarters, and didn’t appear in the fourth with the game in hand for Phoenix (33-9).

Cory Joseph scored 21 points and dished seven assists, and Trey Lyles added 18 points and six rebounds.

Flint native JaVale McGee had 20 points on 9-for-10 shooting for the Suns, and Cameron Payne also had 20 points. Suns center Deandre Ayton left the game in the second quarter with a sprained ankle.

Pistons start hot, finish cold

The first quarter was a shootout and the Pistons held their own before Phoenix put the game away in the third quarter. The Pistons trailed, 39-35, after the opening period. Both teams shot north of 70% — the Pistons made 15 of 24 shots (71.4%) and the Suns sunk 16 of 20 attempts (80%).

It wasn’t from lack of defense. Both teams came out firing, and traded tough shots. Cunningham got off to a fast start, scoring Detroit’s first two buckets and 10 of his 21 points in the period. Back-to-back 3-pointers by Saddiq Bey brought the Pistons within, 30-29, with 2:40 on the clock.

Phoenix began to pull away during the back half of the second quarter, taking a 10-point lead after Payne knocked down a 3 with 1:41 to go. The Pistons shot 6-for-21 in the second quarter and 9-for-21 in the fourth.

Both of Cunningham’s technical fouls aided the Suns. His first tech was whistled with 8:41 to play in the third, after he exchanged words with a ref after fouling McGee on an alley-oop attempt. McGee completed the 3-point play, and Chris Paul made the technical free throw to extend the lead to 17.

Kelly Olynyk nearing return

Olynyk played 10 games before spraining his left knee against the Houston Rockets on Nov. 10. But he could return during Detroit’s four-game road trip, which begins Tuesday against the Golden State Warriors.

Olynyk was active against the Suns despite being ruled out before the game. He has been working out with the Motor City Cruise in preparation for his return, and Pistons coach Dwane Casey said before the game the team is optimistic he will return during the road trip.

The Pistons have been thin at center since Olynyk’s injury. Trey Lyles has been playing out of position, and Luka Garza has gotten extended minutes as well.

Contact Omari Sankofa II at osankofa@freepress.com. 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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