Cade Cunningham did all he could to keep the Pistons out of the record book

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Cade Cunningham was special on Tuesday night. He played like the best guard in the NBA. Of his 41 points, he scored 37 of them in the second half. He went 13-of-16 from the field and a perfect 3-of-3 from the 3-point line. When the Detroit Pistons were down, 108-103, to the Brooklyn Nets with three minutes remaining in the game, Cunningham scored his team’s next 10 points.

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It took him two minutes to cut the deficit to two. Then, suddenly, the Pistons were no longer able to fire and they ended up setting an NBA record with their 27th consecutive loss in a season. Dorian-Finney Smith hit a back-breaking three to put the Nets up by five with 39 seconds left in the game. That was followed by a 25-foot brick from Alec Burks coming out of a timeout.

What an agonizing defeat for the Pistons and their fans. Cunningham’s performance was one of the best in franchise history. According to the Bally Sports Detroit telecast, he is the first Piston to score 35 or more points in a half since the 1996-97 season. Tuesday was the second time in December that Cunningham has scored at least 40 points. No one has done that in a Piston uniform since Jerry Stackhouse in 2001.

Cunningham scored every way possible during that two-minute stretch. He hit a stepback three, absorbed contact for an and-1, and no one from the Nets was able to stay in front of him. If the Pistons were able to pull this game off, Cunningham’s performance would have been regarded as one of the best of the year.

Instead, the Pistons have become an embarrassing answer to a trivia question. The 1972-73 Philadelphia 76ers only won nine games that season and they still didn’t string together 27 losses in a row.

Jalen Duren returned to the floor as the Pistons starting center. He put up 12 points and 15 rebounds in what was only his 14 game of the season due to ankle injuries. The extra beef in the middle was a benefit to the Pistons, but that and a career-high in scoring from Cunningham still resulted in a 118-112 loss to the Nets.

The Pistons were not supposed to be contenders in the Eastern Conference, however, by bringing in Monty Williams, and Cunningham returning from an injury that prematurely ended his 2022-23 season, losing enough to reach the record books was also not expected.

While Cunningham has played in only just over 100 total NBA games, he has done enough to prove that the Pistons were correct in making him the No. 1 overall selection in the 2021 NBA Draft.

The front of the lottery is something they were supposed to be ready to avoid this season, but there is every reason to believe that they will again be in the running for the top pick.

The Pistons have intriguing pieces and a rising star in Cunningham. On Tuesday night, he put on a signature performance that was probably the best of his short NBA career. While the game was not nationally televised, the sports world was paying attention to see if history would be set the day after Christmas, 2023.

Cunningham did his damndest to fight it off, but those 41 points were not enough to keep the Pistons out of the history books.

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