Cade Cunningham leads Pistons to Summer League win over Knicks

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LAS VEGAS — Obi Toppin and Quentin Grimes, two of the Knicks recent first-round picks, were productive Friday night, but they couldn’t keep pace with No. 1-overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, Cade Cunningham.

Cunningham, the Pistons’ do-everything guard, stole the show in his best summer league outing, scoring 24 points and shooting 7-for-10 from 3-point range to give Detroit its first victory of the session, 93-87 over the Knicks at Thomas & Mack Center.

In his rookie season, Cunningham’s performance will dictate whether the Pistons become playoff contenders and give the Knicks a battle for postseason seeding. On Friday, the Pistons ran out to a 12-3 lead as the Knicks started the game 1-for-12 from the field and fell to 2-2 overall in summer league play.

An Oklahoma State product, Cunningham had played passively in his first two games, both losses, leading prognosticators to wonder whether Jalen Green, taken second by the Rockets, should have gone No. 1.

Cade Cunningham looks to make a move on Quentin Grimes during the Knicks’ 93-87 summer league loss to the Pistons.
NBAE via Getty Images

“It felt good,’’ said Cunningham of his play Friday. “I hit the first one. Anytime you get the first one to go through, it’s a good feeling and I’m ready to let fly.’’

Knicks summer league coach Dice Yoshimoto was impressed.

“You see his skill set. He’s a very skilled player,’’ Yoshimoto said. “He’s going to do well. His future is bright.’’

The Knicks got a fine outing from their 2021 first-round pick, Grimes, who heated up in the second half to score his summer league high of 15 points. Grimes went 6-for-10 from the field and 3-for-6 from 3-point range.

Toppin, the Knicks’ 2020 lottery pick, continued putting up big numbers, dumping in 31 points on 13-for-20 shooting with nine rebounds, three steals and two blocks.

But the Knicks’ other 2020 first-rounder, Immanuel Quickley, being used in an experiment as the starting point guard, reverted to his summer league opener ways and couldn’t get many shots to go down.

Quickley finished 4-for-18 from the field and had a last-second layup attempt blocked from behind by Cunningham. Quickley had nine assists, but also three turnovers and seven fouls.

Like Quickley a year earlier, Grimes was selected 25th in this year’s draft.

“I started to be more aggressive,” said Grimes, who didn’t reach double figures in his first three games. “I’m starting to feel more comfortable out there with the team and the new guys. Just feeling more comfortable.’’

Grimes had been relatively quiet, though he doesn’t get a lot of passes from Quickley.

“I told Quentin to be Quentin,’’ Yoshimoto said. “If he’s open, shoot it and not move it. Don’t overthink. Just shoot and let it fly. He showed it today and made shots.’’

While Argentine point guard Luca Vildoza sat out another game with a sore foot, Lithuanian rookie combo guard Rokas Jokubaitis looked very good off the bench. He was a team-high plus 13, going 3-for-5 from the field for seven points. He outraced the Detroit defense for one lovely lefty fast-break layup and threw a fast-break lob to Toppin for a dunk.

After Vildoza’s disappointing summer, it’s unclear if Jokubaitis, selected 34th overall, will join the Knicks at training camp. He is slated to play his first season in Barcelona.

The Knicks’ second-round pick, center Jericho Sims out of Texas, who has looked good on both sides of the ball, sat out the game for “rest,” but will play Saturday versus the Cavaliers.

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