Cade Cunningham beats Detroit Pistons teammates in NBA Rising Stars Challenge, wins MVP

Detroit Free Press

The Detroit Pistons‘ future was on full display in the NBA Rising Stars Challenge on Friday to kick off All-Star Weekend in Cleveland.

Cade Cunningham showed his play-making ability in both games, helping Team Barry win the night, and the Pistons rookie was named the Rising Stars Challenge MVP.

Saddiq Bey and Isaiah Stewart played for Team Isiah, led by Pistons legend Isiah Thomas. Cade Cunningham was picked on Team Barry, led by Basketball Hall of Famer Rick Barry.

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In the new format 12 rookies, 12 second-year players and four G League players were divided into four teams for a three-game tournament. The two semifinal games were first-team-to-50 and the championship game was first-to-25.

And wouldn’t you know it: all the Pistons met in the title game.

After both teams hit an offensive lull, Cunningham pushed the pace, setting up a 3-pointer for the Rockets’ Alperen Sengun and a three-point play for his Houston teammate, Jae’Sean Tate, on consecutive possessions for a 20-18 lead for Team Barry.

But Cunningham fouled Toronto’s Precious Achiuwa, who scored but missed the free throw, tying the game.

Later, after a Tate steal, Cunningham nailed a 3-pointer in transition to give Team Barry a 24-20 lead. On the next trip down, the ball got inside to Stewart but poked away by his Pistons teammate Cunningham.

Then on the other end, Cunningham found former Michigan star Franz Wagner, who was fouled. The Orlando Magic (three points) rookie nailed the first free throw, clinching the game for Team Barry.

Cunningham had five points, three assists and a two rebounds in the title game. Stewart had two points and four rebounds and Bey did not score in the title game.

On the TNT postgame show, Cunningham was interviewed by Adam Lefkoe, former NBA center Brendan Hayward and Hall of Famer and former Pistons great Grant Hill, who offered a funny moment. Hill asked which place Cunningham preferred, Flood’s or Beans and Cornbread, two staples in the Detroit restaurant scene. Perhaps we can blame the pandemic, but Cunningham had no idea what Hill was talking about, finally settling on Beans and Cornbread.

“I can rock with that,” Cunningham said, as Hayward chided Hill. Later, social media came to the rescue, confirming to Hill that both restaurants are still alive and well.

In the first game of the night, Team Isiah advanced to the title game with a 50-49 win over Team Worthy. Grizzlies guard Desmond Bane made two free throws the clinch it, but that was set up by Bey’s block of Houston guard Jalen Green’s 3-point attempt.

Bey led Team Isiah in Game 1 with 16 points on 7 of 8 shooting (2-for-3 from 3). Stewart had 10 points and six rebounds.

In the second game, Cunningham’s pass found Tate, who drove to the basket and scored on a left-handed layup in traffic to give Team Barry a 50-48 win. The No. 1 pick in last year’s draft had 13 points (tied for the team lead) to go with a team-high six assists and five rebounds.

Contact Kirkland Crawford: Follow him on Twitter @HiKirkHere.

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