Boston — Cade Cunningham shined in three games against the Boston Celtics as a rookie last season, but that same magic didn’t carry over to his first game as a sophomore against the defending Eastern Conference champions.
The Celtics disrupted Cunningham’s offensive flow and limited him to a season-low four points in Detroit’s lopsided 128-112 loss on Wednesday. He finished 1-of-11 from the field and missed all six of his 3-pointers.
It was the first time Cunningham has scored less than 10 points this season and the fourth time of his career that he’s totaled four points or less.
“It was tough. I feel like I was trying to get to my spots, but I just didn’t have the step that I wanted to have,” Cunningham told The Detroit News after the game. “I didn’t have the burst that I wanted to have. They did a really good job of defending, containing. It was just one of those nights.
“I feel like it was a great learning experience for me, to be in a game like that when things just aren’t going my way. I feel like I learned a lot that game. I’m going to put it behind me and I’m excited to get back out there and get back to it.”
Cunningham entered the game averaging 21.4 points, 6.5 rebounds and 6.4 assists per game through the Pistons’ first 11 games. He’s shown the ability this season to use the pick-and-roll to his advantage and knock down mid-range shots, pretty much at will. However, that wasn’t the case against the Celtics, who paid attention to the scouting report and denied Cunningham of easy opportunities throughout the game.
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Cunningham missed his first eight shots and went into the halftime break without a single point on the scoreboard. His first field goal didn’t occur until the 10:14 mark of the third quarter when he had a wide open layup, which was a rare clean look on a night when Boston made it their mission to have someone else on the Pistons beat them.
“(The Celtics) did a good job. They were into him and didn’t allow him to get to his sweet spot,” said Pistons coach Dwane Casey. “Did a good job of switching off onto him, challenging his shot. Just made it tough on him. He just had one of those nights that sometimes you have. He just couldn’t buy a bucket. Layups, free throws. He missed wide open 3-point shots and that’s unusual for Cade. I know he’ll bounce back next game and he’ll be ready to compete on the offensive end.”
Midway through the third quarter of the game, Cunningham attempted to drive inside the paint against Grant Williams, but Jayson Tatum came from the weakside and blocked his shot. Tatum received the ball back on the other end of the floor and drained one of his five 3-pointers to give Boston a 16-point lead.
Of the many defenses the Pistons have faced this season, Cunningham said Boston did the best job of defending him.
“I think they did the best job of making it feel super clogged up anytime that I did anything, really,” Cunningham said. “I never really felt like I had much space, which is a credit to their defense but you live and you learn and it’s a great film session for me coming up and I think I’m going to learn a lot from it.”
When asked what he learned the most, Cunningham looked to the mental side of the game and acknowledged that his poor shooting night was humbling.
“There were shots that felt really good that didn’t fall and then there were mistakes that I made,” Cunningham said. “I gotta be better for my team. I think it’s just that whole experience in itself, playing against a really good team like that in their house. You have to bring it.
“I know my team puts a lot of trust in me to hold my weight and do my thing, so having nights like this, it’s humbling. It makes me want to work harder and stay on my craft.”