All eyes in the NBA community were tuned in to Las Vegas on Tuesday night, as the two top picks in the 2021 NBA draft — Detroit Pistons guard Cade Cunningham and Houston Rockets guard Jalen Green, respectively — battled it out in their first professional game against each other. Unsurprisingly, the two put on a show.
Green, while going a pick below Cunningham, prevailed in this match. The G-League Ignite product scored 25 points in 30 minutes of action, knocking down three threes, six buckets, and ten free throws.
The Rockets went on to win the matchup 111-91.
However, Cunningham, too, was impressive. The first overall pick scored 20 points and had four rebounds and three steals. He also was the facilitator of a series of dazzling passes that, if converted by his teammates, would have likely netted him over 10 assists.
“My chip is super big. It started at draft night when I got drafted number 2. I felt I was number 1.”— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) August 11, 2021
Jalen Green on having a chip on his shoulder pic.twitter.com/nbwaGYpiNh
In their individual matchups on the court, Cunningham also received the last laugh. In a one-on-one on the top of the three-point line, Cunningham feigned a drive right, and silkily dribbled the ball behind his back, stopped, and sunk a three – snatching Green’s ankles in the process.
However, in a post-game interview, Green revealed he was not all too concerned with the hype around his and Cunningham’s rivalry. Instead, he’s more focused on playing team ball.
“I feel like I handled it pretty well,” Green said to the Houston Chronicle. “I could have handled it a lot better. I was trying to get my teammates involved. I know I had a lot of turnovers. But I was still trying to get everyone involved and not make it a one-on-one battle between me and Cade. I could have turned around and did that for myself, but we end up getting the win so that’s all that matters.”
Cunningham shared a similar sentiment.
“I know what the hype and everything was going into the game, and that’s a given,” he told The Athletic. “My main goal was to go in and get the chemistry right with our young core and figure each other out. I was just trying to go in and play my game.”
Soon enough, we’ll be able to see these two duke it out with their official NBA rosters, for years to come.