Cade Cunningham has history of good games against Celtics: ‘We have to bring it’

Detroit News

Boston — When Cade Cunningham plays against the Boston Celtics, he elevates his game.

With the Pistons playing the Celtics twice this week and Cunningham’s history against the defending Eastern Conference champions, the Pistons were hoping that trend continues. The second-year guard has been Detroit’s leading scorer against the Celtics in each of their last three matchups, with 20 or more points in each game.

Cunningham’s last appearance at TD Garden: 27 points and six assists in a 114-103 loss for Detroit. The Pistons, coming off an impressive win against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday, have eight of their next 10 games on the road. Cunningham sees a defensive-minded team when he thinks about the Celtics.

“Obviously, it’s a really good defensive team,” Cunningham said after Wednesday’s shootaround. “They have a bunch of guys that want to defend, and offensively, they share the ball. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are two great offensive players, as well. So, we have to bring it against a team like that. Last year, I just wanted to be aggressive and impose myself on the game.”

Boston is allowing 114.4 points per game, which ranks 18th in the NBA. The Celtics are missing Robert Williams, their main defensive anchor in the frontcourt, due to an injury that has kept him out and contributed to their decline on the defensive end.

Aside from their defense, Boston has become an adept offensive team. The Celtics were posting 117.8 points per game, ranking third in the NBA. Tatum is having a career year through the first 10 games: 31.2 points, 7.5 rebounds and 4.0 assists, while Brown is averaging 24.9 points and 6.7 assists. That dynamic wing duo will be difficult for the Pistons to contain, especially with the experience Boston is building upon with their trip to the NBA Finals.

Last season, Cunningham spearheaded a group outing to TD Garden that included Isaiah Stewart, Killian Hayes and Isaiah Livers to watch Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals between the Miami Heat and the Celtics. It was an opportunity for the core group of Detroit’s rebuilding roster to experience the high intensity of a playoff atmosphere.

Last season, Cunningham spearheaded a group outing to TD Garden that included Isaiah Stewart, Killian Hayes and Isaiah Livers to watch Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals between Miami Heat and the Boston Celtics. It was an opportunity for the core group of Detroit’s rebuilding roster to experience the high intensity of a playoff atmosphere.

The leader of the Pistons’ last playoff appearance in 2019 is currently on the Celtics’ roster. Forward Blake Griffin, who played 118 games for Detroit from 2017-21, signed with the Celtics during the offseason. He’s not the All-Star player he once was with the Pistons, as he’s only played in five games and he averages 3.4 points and 2.4 rebounds per game.

After Wednesday’s game against the Celtics, the Pistons will visit the New York Knicks on Friday for the first of a back-to-back that concludes in Detroit against Boston on Saturday.

Nearing a return

Nearing a return

For the first time this season, Alec Burks and Marvin Bagley III were not listed as “out” on the Pistons’ injury report.

The team listed Burks, who’s missed training camp and the first 11 games due to a left foot injury, as questionable for Wednesday’s game against the Celtics in Tuesday’s injury report. The team declared both players out hours before tip-off.

Burks was acquired during the offseason, along with Nerlens Noels, in a trade with the Knicks. It is unclear when Burks will make his Pistons debut, but his ability to score — especially from the perimeter — should help the Pistons’ second unit.

Bagley has been sidelined for the past four weeks due to a sprained MCL and bone bruise in his right knee. His availability will allow Pistons coach Dwane Casey more flexibility to use two centers in the same lineup, which is currently hindered due to possible foul trouble.

Both players participated in practice on Sunday, which marked the first time the Pistons had all 15 players available for a practice session.

Their expected returns will help make the team whole and they give the Pistons the best chance possible to compete on a nightly basis.

mcurtis@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @MikeACurtis2

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