Cunningham, playing in just his third game, tallied 18 points, 10 rebounds, four assists and one steal in 32 minutes of work in the 109-98 loss. He joined Grant Hill and Isiah Thomas as the only players in team history to record a double-double in three career games or earlier.
He once again struggled to shoot from the field, though, going just 4-of-17 from the field and 1-of-7 from 3-point range. Despite the shooting woes, Cunningham stayed aggressive and managed to get to the free-throw line 10 times, converting on nine of those shots.
Pistons head coach Dwane Casey wanted to put Cunningham on the ball more and thought he handled the pressure by the Sixers well. Casey thought Cunningham took his foot off the pedal a bit in the second half but commended his first-half effort.
In the first half, I thought he did a beautiful job of really commanding the ball and organizing the floor, setting people up and making the right reads. His shot is going to fall. It’s just a matter of time before he gets his rhythm with his 3-point shot so I’m not concerned about that.
Cunningham is off to a tough start shooting the ball to begin his career.
Following his performance on Thursday, Cunningham is converting on just 17.9% (7-of-39) of his shot attempts from the field, including 4.8% (1-of-21) from beyond the arc. He had missed his first 18 3-point attempts prior to hitting his first one versus the Sixers.
“I tell him to keep shooting those,” Pistons center Isaiah Stewart said. “The shots he missed tonight, I’ve seen him make those shots a lot. Those shots he is missing are going to be turning into some points soon so there ain’t no problem there.”
He made his first 3-pointer in style, though, pulling up from the logo.
Of course, Cunningham missed most of training camp and the entire preseason prior to debuting with the Pistons last week. Casey knew he would have some rust during his few several games back and wanted to temper expectations for him.
Cunningham is still working to find a groove on the court but is getting more comfortable each time he plays. The encouragement of his teammates has helped him build his confidence.
I just want to play my game. I feel like I’m pretty good with the ball in my hands. I haven’t been efficient in my first three games but I’m just getting more and more comfortable. I didn’t have a training camp so my team is encouraging me to get the ball and be me. I’m going to continue to do that until they fall.
Cunningham will have the opportunity to play through mistakes this season on a roster that is building toward the future. He comes into the first few games a bit behind after missing time but looks to be slowly rounding into form.
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