by Kyle Brandon
A Battle of two single win teams usually doesn’t demand a nationally televised game and typically isn’t circled on many NBA fans calendar, but Wednesday was different. Wednesday was Cade Cunningham vs Jalen Green. We heard the debates all summer on who should be drafted first, and got a small sample size of these two matched up in a summer league matchup in Las Vegas, but the practice uniforms are off, and the big lights were shining bright.
Rockets were coming off of a 5 game road trip where they lost a couple of heart breaking one possession games. The Pistons’ only ESPN game of the season comes after a gauntlet of games facing the Bucks, Sixers, and Nets, in three straight loses. These were two teams that were clearly not firing on all cylinders going into the night.
These fan bases have been generally fine with losing, knowing that a top pick is likely in their future, but tonight, that mindset was put aside. This was big, for many reasons. Cade Cunningham has been the silent leader for Detroit, who they took over the exciting flashy Jalen Green. Isiah Stewart is the successor to Christian Wood who rejected the Pistons. These fan bases have come to a boiling point online and were ready for a prime time game.
The source of that boiling comes from a quote back in August where Jalen Green spoke with Chris Haynes in a conversation that would rally Houston and Detroit fans to the internet for heated discourse.
"I wanted to be the No. 1 pick, but as for the location, I didn't want to be in Detroit," Green told Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports. "I felt a lot more comfortable in Houston. It felt like a real homie environment. With Detroit, it felt like I was just going back to the G League bubble, and I just got out of the bubble. That's pretty much what it was.
"In the (G League) bubble, I didn't really have anything to do but just stay in the gym. I didn't have any time to get away for myself. The only time I had to get away for myself was in my apartment. That's what it felt like in Detroit. I wouldn't be stepping outside in Detroit. There are not many things you can do in Detroit like that. You're going to stay in the gym and then go back to your apartment."
The teams tipped off and the Pistons come out of the gate shooting hot taking an 11-3 lead, but that lead wouldn’t hold for long as Cade picked up two fouls early and Coach Casey was forced to sit his top draft pick. Without Cade the Rockets were able to close the gap and these teams were going back and forth until the sound of the halftime buzzer when Saddiq Bey hits a 31 ft. jumper to bring the game within a single point.
As much as ESPN continued to show the graphic of Cade and Jalen’s scoring during the third quarter, they were both in the shadows of the 21 point quarter that Jerami Grant put up where he went 7-10 from everywhere on the court. During the third quarter we would see Jalen drive past Cade on the baseline and get off a highlight dunk. This was followed up by intense screaming in the direction of the one man chosen before him in the draft. That screaming caused not only the crowd to come to life, but a technical foul. This would be the last time we would see Jalen put points on the board for the rest of the night.
While Jalen Green ends the game 0-4 in the fourth quarter, Cade hits a three with four minutes left to extend the Pistons lead from 4 to 7 and give Detroit a lead they would carry to the end of the game. 112-104 is the final score in favor of Detroit when it’s all said and done. Cade engages the fans in his home state of Texas on his way to the locker room with no shirt, no jersey, and a big smile.
After the game, Cunningham was asked about how he handled trash talk. According to Rod Beard of Detroit News, Cade said “Nothing that I heard tonight held any weight – it was all for the cameras”. Like a celebrity boxing match, this quote seems to set up the much anticipated rematch on December 18th in Detroit. This is the first matchup of many, between two young stars who are likely to be linked throughout their career like Luka Doncic and Trae Young.
Who do you think won the matchup between Cade vs Green? Let us know on twitter @48minutesntwrk!