‘He’s rookie of the year’: Cunningham leads Pistons to first three-game winning streak

Detroit News

Detroit — It took most of the season, but the Pistons seem to have found their stride. They’re in their best stretch of the season, having won five of the previous seven games.

Make it six of eight.

Behind Cade Cunningham and Jerami Grant, the Pistons made a comeback at the end of regulation and surged in overtime for an impressive 113-110 victory over the Atlanta Hawks on Monday night at Little Caesars Arena.

Cunningham finished with 28 points, six rebounds and 10 assists, including seven points in overtime, and Grant had a big jumper in the extra period, part of his 23 points and four rebounds.

“He’s rookie of the year. It’s not even close, as far as talent evaluation. I’ve been in it a long time and seen (a lot of) players,” coach Dwane Casey said of Cunningham.

“The only thing that (voters) can hold against us is we are a young team rebuilding, but talent wise, he’s the guy that can finish games for you, and that’s what you need in those situations. He’s playing like a 10-year vet, so to get 10 assists and 28 points is big time.”

Marvin Bagley III added 19 points and 10 rebounds and Killian Hayes 13 points, four rebounds and six assists for the Pistons (18-47), who are on a three-game win streak for the first time this season.

Cunningham hit a 3-pointer and assisted on a basket for Bagley for a 107-102 lead in overtime. Clint Capela (nine points and 12 rebounds) answered with an alley-oop, but Cunningham made two straight baskets for the Pistons, for a 111-106 lead with 2:06 left.

“I really like how the Pistons are playing right now. We’re playing really hard and playing for each other, and that’s what’s letting us win some games,” Cunningham said. “I really appreciate my team and my teammates trusting me with the ball, allowing me to get things going.”

BOX SCORE: Pistons 113, Hawks 110 (OT)

After Trae Young (14 points and 12 assists) made one of two free throws, Grant hit a tough fadeaway jumper to extend the lead to six.

The Hawks got a 3-pointer from DeAndre Hunter (15 points) but didn’t get any closer.

Cunningham almost put the game away at the end of regulation, making two free throws after he was fouled on an inbounds pass with 1.6 seconds left, putting the Pistons ahead, 101-100. It was the sixth foul on Bogdan Bogdanovic, who led the Hawks (31-33) with 22 points, five rebounds and six assists.

“He deserves that (award). He got us down the stretch and we were trying to go to him down the stretch, which we wanted to, and we kind of got what we wanted down the stretch,” Casey said. “For me, he’s the Rookie of the Year with the way he won the game for us tonight.”

John Collins (17 points and 11 rebounds) was fouled on the ensuing inbounds play and had a chance to put the Hawks back ahead, but he split the free throws, tying it for one last possession. The Pistons missed their desperation attempt, and the game went to overtime.

More: At long last, Isaiah Livers shows off his skills for Pistons

The Pistons moved ahead late in the third quarter, after Cunningham scored on a dunk and Hayes followed with a 3-pointer with 17.8 seconds left, for a 78-76 lead.

The Hawks had a hot start to the fourth quarter, with a jumper and a 3-pointer from Lou Williams to regain the lead. Rodney McGruder made one of two free throws and Danilo Gallinari (14 points) answered with a 3-pointer.

Isaiah Livers got going with his second 3-pointer to pull within two points, but Gallinari followed with a dunk. Cunningham got a driving lay-in to go, and Williams added a drive to keep the lead to four.

The Pistons moved ahead with a 6-0 run, with a free throw from Killian Hayes, a Bagley dunk off a nice assist from Cunningham and a 3-pointer for Livers, his third of the game, to make it a 90-88 Pistons lead at the 5:27 mark.

Young ended the run with a floater, but Hayes set Bagley up for an easy dunk. Bagley had another alley-oop on a pass from Cunningham during that stretch, but Bogdanovic pulled the Hawks ahead with a 3-pointer with 2:45 left.

“He’s probably going to sleep well tonight just because of how many minutes straight he played because of Isaiah’s injury, but he did a great job of commanding the boards and scoring when he had to, and cleaning up the offensive boards,” Casey said.

“He did an excellent job of getting out and switching out on Trae Young, which is not an easy task, and using his legs. I said it last week — he is a great fit for us going forward, a great piece for us.”

Cunningham helped pull the Pistons ahead, with a turnaround lay-in in the lane, and Hayes split a pair of free throws. Bogdanovic keyed the Hawks’ comeback with a three-point play to take the lead, 98-97, with 1:19 left in regulation.

The Pistons played the second half without starting center Isaiah Stewart, who left the game because of an injury in his right knee. He looked to be in pain and was helped to the locker room.

Rod.Beard@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @detnewsRodBeard

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