Jalen Green and Cade Cunningham will be inextricably linked for the entirety of their NBA careers.
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The number one and two picks in the 2021 NBA Draft faced off against each other for the first time on Wednesday in what was the first national tv game for both, and the match-up did not disappoint.
Green won the individual stat battle, finishing with 23-points, five rebounds and two assists, but it was Cade Cunnigham who got the last laugh as the Pistons won 112-104 in Houston. Cunningham finished with 20 points, four rebounds and two assists.
The matchup everyone was looking forward to almost fizzled early when Cunningham went to the bench less than four minutes into the game with two fouls, limiting him to 13 first-half minutes, but it kicked off during the second half.
Green looked aggressive from the outset of the third, attacking Cunningham whenever the two were matched up. On one play, Green drove to the hoop past Cunningham to finish with a dunk and apparently had some words for his fellow rookie and was assigned a technical for taunting.
JALEN! 😱 pic.twitter.com/RcrKSR8tk2- Houston Rockets (@HoustonRockets) November 11, 2021
After the game, Cunningham wouldn't elaborate on what Green said to him.
Cade on player's talking trash: "Nothing I heard tonight held any real weight. It was all for the cameras, I thought."- James Edwards III (@JLEdwardsIII) November 11, 2021
The Pistons rookie, who missed the first four games of the season recovering from a sprained right ankle, has looked increasingly more mobile and comfortable with each game. Through his first four games, Cunningham was shooting just 23.2 percent of his field-goal attempts, but connected on 44.4 percent against the Rockets (8-of-18).
MORE: Cunningham vs Green - the next great rivalry
He hit two huge buckets down the stretch - a three to snap a late run from the Rockets, and an athletic layup with just under two minutes remaining in the fourth to give the Pistons a four-point lead.
"Each game, I'm feeling a little more pep in my step," Cunningham said post-game. "If I can stay like that and stay level-headed, the season will be fine."
#Pistons Dwane Casey on Cade Cunningham's clutch gene: "Some guys just have "it." Some guys can make the plays in crucial situations. We ran plays for him down the stretch and you feel comfortable doing that."- Rod Beard (@detnewsRodBeard) November 11, 2021
Green and Cunningham are just 19 and 20 years old, so there will be plenty more nights where the league's next two rising stars can shine, but if Wednesday was just the appetiser, then fans will be clamouring for more.
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