Three quick observations from Wednesday night’s 107-106 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder at Paycom Center
BUZZER BEATER – Jaden Ivey, coming off a career night, was maybe on his way to topping it. But a critical call with less than two minutes to play sent Ivey to the bench and the Pistons to a tough loss – at the buzzer – to a playoff-hungry Oklahoma City team.
The Thunder came into the night in the 10th spot – the final play-in berth – but with the same record as 11th-place Dallas and just two in the loss column out of the No. 6 seed to avoid the play-in tournament. The Thunder used a 10-0 run midway through the third quarter to take an eight-point lead. But the Pistons tied the game at 89 early in the fourth quarter and again at 100 on Ivey’s fifth triple with 3:35 to play. Ivey fouled out with 1:48 left – wiping out a bucket and a free throw attempt – when he was whistled for a charge against OKC rookie Jaylen Williams. Dwane Casey challenged the call, but it was upheld. Cory Joseph took his spot and his 3-pointer with 13.5 seconds left gave the Pistons a 106-105 lead. They forced a miss and a jump ball with seven seconds to play. Oklahoma City retained possession but Josh Giddey missed a contested shot from the right side of the basket, but the scramble for the rebound saw Thunder rookie Jaylen Williams tip in the game-winner. Ivey opened scoring with a triple just 13 seconds into Wednesday’s game but had to sit just 4:34 into the game when he picked up his second foul. But Ivey, coming off a 32-point, eight-rebound, eight-assist outing, found his footing again after re-entering the game to start the second quarter. He finished with 24 points and nine assists. And when it was over, he had joined Dave Bing atop the Pistons leaderboard for consecutive games scoring in double figures for a rookie with 33. Ivey, who also played just half of the third quarter before sitting with his fourth foul, put together another strong game as he furthers his case to be named to the NBA’s All-Rookie team.
1-2 PUNCH – The Pistons are committed to Jalen Duren and James Wiseman as their centers and the history of NBA big men says it takes longer for them to reach their fully realized versions than perimeter players. The present is looking pretty good for both players, but Wednesday’s game was a timely reminder that even the most talented young big men cycle through ups and downs – sometimes in the same game. It was a case of two halves for Duren and Wiseman at Oklahoma City. The two big men – Wiseman, 21, and Duren, 19 – combined for 21 points and 12 rebounds in the first half alone to give the Pistons a 29-21 rebounding edge to pave the way for 16 second-chance points and a two-point halftime lead. They wound up combining for 27 points and 17 rebounds. Wiseman’s first shot of the second half, a hook shot to pull the Pistons within three points, came with just more than a minute to play in the game. He finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds. Duren, notably springier and more productive since returning from a six-game absence to allow lingering sprains to both ankles to recover, added just one point and one rebound in the second half to finish with 10 and six. Dwane Casey said earlier this week that he would consider giving Duren a start at some point in the season’s home stretch mainly to experiment with lineup combinations. “It’s not who starts, it’s who produces and who’s in at the end of the game if it comes to that. Haven’t put a lot of thought into who’s starting. They both get the proper minutes and produce. J.D. one night, Wiseman the other.” Getting them both going on the same night – and for both halves – is the next step.
BACK IN OKC – Not much more than a month ago, Eugene Omoruyi was wearing Oklahoma City’s uniform, starting on a two-way deal and having it converted to a standard contract. But the Thunder, notorious for cycling the bottom of their roster, waived Omoruyi on Feb. 26 and the Pistons picked him up on a 10-day contract just five days later. They retained him with a second 10-day deal after the first expired and then signed him to a standard contract when that expired. Omoruyi played 28 minutes and finished with 14 points and five rebounds while hitting 3 of 5 from the 3-point line.
Omoruyi, 26, averaged 4.9 points and 2.3 rebounds in 12 minutes a game while playing 23 games for the Thunder this season after breaking into the NBA a year ago to play four games with Dallas. He’s played 13 games for the Pistons, averaging 8.7 points and 3.6 rebounds in 22 minutes a game over his first 12.