Cunningham's big night can't stop slumping Pistons from seventh straight loss

By Steve Kornacki
Special to The Detroit News

The struggles continued Tuesday night for the Detroit Pistons, whose losing streak reached seven games in a 110-92 loss to the Trail Blazers in Portland.

“When adversity hits for a young team, you either join the fight or step back. And tonight, we stepped back,” Detroit coach Dwane Casey said.

Rookie guard Cade Cunningham enjoyed a career-high scoring night, but was left unsated.

Detroit Pistons guard Cade Cunningham, right, blocks a shot from Portland Trail Blazers guard Anfernee Simons during the first half of Tuesday's game in Portland, Ore.

“We’re going through some adversity now,” said Cunningham, who scored 26 points with seven rebounds but also had six turnovers. “It’s tough to win games, but I love the guys I’m with…I’m going to keep on working, keep on grinding.”

Blazers rookie coach Chauncey Billups, who led Detroit to the 2004 NBA title, got his first win against his former team. Portland might be only 11-11 overall, but is now 10-1 at the Moda Center.

Pistons center Isaiah Stewart (15 points, 13 rebounds) and forward Jerami Grant (14 points) scored well, but the Pistons had the game drift away from them quarter by quarter.

BOX SCORE: Blazers 110, Pistons 92

Starting forward Saddiq Bey was 1-for-9 from the field and scored just two points.

The silver lining for Detroit was Cunningham, who has struggled to hit shots consistently in most games. This time he made 10-of-13 and 5-of-7 3-pointers.

“He’s coming along but he can’t do it by himself,” Casey said. “We need others to join the party. His area of growth needs to be the turnovers. But shooting the ball, he’s getting into a groove — which is great.”

The Blazers were without their best player. Point guard Damian Lillard (22.0 points, 7.9 assists) suffered a core injury in Monday night’s game against Utah. But Anfernee Simons replaced him and scored 12 points with five assists.

Guard CJ McCollum paced Portland with 28 points, and center Jusuf Nurkic (13 points, eight rebounds) was solid. Ben McLemore contributed 17 points off the bench.

Casey pointed to his team’s 18 turnovers to 10 for Portland as a prime area in need of improvement.

“One of our goals was to get it down to 13 or so and we didn’t do that,” he said.

Cunningham took on some of the responsibility.

“They blitz me a lot, and I always try to make the right reads. I’m shooting the ball well, but I’ve got to take care of it," he said. "Sometimes I try to make a play for someone that’s risky. NBA guys are too good, too long.” 

The Pistons dug themselves a hole in the first quarter with seven turnovers. But they still managed to trail by only 27-21. Detroit drew fouls and shot 9-for-11 at the free-throw line to keep it relatively close.

The turnovers were virtually eliminated in the second quarter. The Pistons only committed one. But Portland still built a 12-point advantage and led, 54-45, at the half.

Cunningham had a strong first half. He made all four shots, including a pair of 3-pointers, and added four rebounds. Frank Jackson came off the bench to go 2-for-6 on treys and match the eight first-half points of Grant.

Jackson ended up scoring 10 points and point guard Killian Hayes had 11 points.

The Pistons had just one offensive rebound in the first half and got six after intermission. Still, they won the battle on the defensive boards to lead in overall rebounding, 45-43.

The Blazers have had their way with the Pistons in Portland, and now have an 18-43 edge at home in the series between the teams that met in the 1990 NBA Finals — won by Detroit. The Pistons last won here in 2017.

Steve Kornacki is a freelance writer.