Detroit Pistons show they can win without Cade Cunningham

Saddiq Bey (41). Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports
Saddiq Bey (41). Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports /

The Detroit Pistons had won just one game all season that Cade Cunningham did not play in. The victory over the Orlando Magic showed other players can step up when called upon. This is important for the future.

The days of the ‘Ironman’, a player who plays every game in the NBA season is long gone.  Wilt Chamberlain was so valuable to the Warriors, he actually averaged over 48 minutes a game for the season, as he played almost the entire game plus any overtimes. Of course, that was back in 1962.

Nowadays, ‘sports science’ decrees that all players who play major minutes need ‘rest days’ to recuperate from the grind of the NBA season. When a rash of big-name stars sitting, although healthy, in nationally televised games developed, the NBA office actually passed a rule discouraging it.

But the bottom line is, no one should expect a key player to be in all 82 games in a season. Teams, to be successful, need to learn to play without their top players.

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The Pistons had not done well when No. 1 overall draft pick Cade Cunningham was absent from the lineup. Like really, really bad.

Going into the game at Orlando, Detroit had played 16 games without Cunningham. They had lost all of them excerpt one (an overtime win over San Antonio when most of the lineup was wiped out due to health protocols).

So the 134-120 win over the Magic is really the first time the regular Pistons players have won a game without Cade.

Since no one, even if healthy, plays all 82, they need to learn they can win without Cunningham in the lineup. And, in the future, hopefully, when wins are important for playoff seeding, the team needs to have the confidence they can emerge victorious without him.

Yes, they were beating a team with an ever worse record than them and, as the NBA-TV analysts pointed out, Orlando was not exactly engaged on defense. But a win is a win, and when you have just 19 of them, all are valuable.

4 reasons Detroit Pistons won without Cade Cunningham?

  • Saddiq Bey had 51 points: Well, having someone score 51 certainly helps the cause. Without Cunningham in the lineup, more shots were available, and Bey took advantage (and the Magic actually did play defense on him in the second half). Having a go-to scorer when Cade is not playing is important.
  • Role players became scorers: Cory Joseph and Isaiah Stewart have important roles with the Pistons, but putting up big scoring numbers are not part of it. This time, ‘Beef Stew’ poured in 16 points while Joseph chipped in with 13. Saben Lee, who has played mostly in the G-League this season, scoring 12 points also helped the offense.
  • Marvin Bagley III can score: His individual defense still needs work, but the guy can score and rebound. His 20 points and 11 rebounds in the low post meant Orlando could not chase Bey and Joseph all over the perimeter.
  • Turnovers not a problem for once):

    Detroit has had a tendency all season to chuck the ball many times to players with different uniforms. This game, the Pistons only turned the ball over seven times (to 13 for the Magic). When your offensive options get limited, making sure you take advantage of every shot is important.

    Next. Will Pistons get punished for trying to win?. dark

    Do not forget that Detroit was missing more than Cunningham. Jerami Grant, Hamidou Diallo, Frank Jackson and, after early in the second half, Killian Hayes, were all unavailable as well.

    Good teams find a way to win no matter who is playing. This is a valuable lesson for the future the Pistons learned.