Jerami Grant

Grant’s 35 points powers Pistons past Houston in battle of 1-2 picks Cunningham, Green

Jerami Grant scored 21 of his 35 points in the third quarter as the Pistons won their second game of the season, beating Houston


Three quick observations from Wednesday night’s 112-104 win over the Houston Rockets at Toyota Center

SHOWCASE PERFORMANCE – A game inevitably billed as the matchup of Cade Cunningham and Jalen Green, the top two picks from July’s draft, evolved into more of a Jerami Grant showcase. Grant scored 21 points in the third quarter alone and finished with 35. After Grant put the Pistons in position to win, the bench put the hammer down. Up three entering the fourth quarter, the Pistons pushed their lead to 12 when Grant and Cunningham came back in the game with eight minutes to play. The lead hit 14 when Houston rallied with a 10-0 run and pulled within a point with less than three minutes to play. As for the rookies, they didn’t determine anything about how their careers will play out but both looked worthy of their draft slots. The matchup had a little extra juice with Cunningham and Green also matched against each other at both ends – at least until Cunningham went to the bench less than four minutes into the game with two fouls, limiting him to 13 first-half minutes. He finished with 20 points, four rebounds, three assists and two steals in 31 minutes while Green had 23 points in 38 minutes. After missing his first 18 3-point shots to start his career, Cunningham has hit 8 of 18 since. Cunningham had two huge baskets down the stretch – a triple to snap Houston’s 10-0 run and a twisting layup with 1:50 left to give the Pistons a four-point lead. The Pistons and Cunningham complete their three-game road trip Friday and Saturday at Cleveland and Toronto – teams featuring the third and fourth overall pick, Cleveland’s Evan Mobley and Toronto’s Scottie Barnes, the two first-year players who’ve taken the early lead in the Rookie of the Year race.

CHANGING PLACES – Nice games for two big men who once wore the uniform of the other team. It’s not exactly like Kelly Olynyk had a breakout with Houston last season after being traded to the Rockets from Miami, but he put together the best statistical stretch of his career, averaging 19.0 points and 8.4 rebounds in 27 games. When Isaiah Stewart picked up two fouls midway through the first quarter, Olynyk came on and gave the Pistons some punch with a pair of triples. He finished with 13 points and six boards. Stewart picked up his fourth foul less than two minutes into the third quarter to bring Olynyk on early again. But Olynyk also got into foul trouble, picking up his fourth four minutes into the third quarter, necessitating the Pistons to use Trey Lyles at center for much of the third quarter. Olynyk picked up two quick fouls around the three-minute mark of the game to foul out, appearing to hurt his left knee while getting whistled for an illegal screen on the first of them. Christian Wood revived his career with the Pistons two years ago, signed with Houston as a free agent last December and averaged 21.0 points and 9.6 rebounds over 41 games around injuries last season. Wood scored 17 first-half points and finished with 20 points and nine boards.

SHOT SPECTRUM – The Pistons averaged 40.6 3-point shots a game but blew past that with 10 minutes to play and finished with 48, making 16 for 33 percent – not where they want to be but better than their 27 percent so far this season. The Pistons got off to an 11-2 lead, making their first three 3-point shots to belie their 30th place standing in the NBA, but then missed their next nine to fall behind. Two players who made their mark last season for their 3-point efficiency, Saddiq Bey and Frank Jackson, are among those struggling the most notably so far this season. Bey missed his first six shots at Houston, three from the 3-point line, before finally denting the scorebook at the first-half buzzer when he made the Rockets pay for a late turnover with a triple to pull the Pistons within a point, 50-49. Bey, who shot 38 percent from three as a rookie and made more triples than all NBA first-year players, came into Wednesday’s game at 28.8 percent over the first nine games on 5.8 triples per game. Bey finished strong, though, putting up 16 points, nine rebounds and three assists. Jackson, who shot 41 percent from the 3-point line last season and parlayed that into a two-year contract as a restricted free agent, came into Wednesday’s game shooting 23 percent on 4.3 triples a game this season. He missed all three of his shots, all triples, and went scoreless in 16 minutes. Bey missed his first six shots but hit a triple at the halftime buzzer to pull the Pistons within a point, 50-49.