Three quick observations from Friday night’s 130-106 loss to the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden
BIG APPLE BEATING – After the delirium of a thrilling opening night home win came the sobering of a road shellacking in Game 2 for the Pistons. The Knicks, who bullied the Pistons in the first preseason game 17 nights earlier, again handcuffed the Pistons with their defense and ran them ragged on offense. The Pistons hung tough for most of the first quarter – they trailed by two with less than two minutes in the quarter – but the game turned quickly when Dwane Casey went to his bench and whatever offense the Pistons had going ground to a halt. The Pistons missed their first seven free throws and were 4 of 15 by halftime – when they trailed by 20 – which stood out even more against New York’s 11 of 17 from three in the half. The Knicks pushed their lead to 29 early in the third quarter but the Pistons went on a 23-6 run over five minutes to more than halve their deficit before New York’s bench, which soundly outplayed Pistons reserves, pushed the lead back to 28 early in the fourth quarter. The Pistons missed their first seven free throws, compounding their scoring woes. It was the ninth straight Pistons loss to New York. Saddiq Bey scored 26 points, hitting 9 of 15 shots and 4 of 8 from the 3-point line, and Bojan Bogdanovic finished with 18.
ROOKIE LESSONS – Jalen Duren played 22 minutes in his NBA debut without picking up a foul after being foul prone – like pretty much every young big man – in the preseason. But he picked up two fouls on his first three defensive possessions after entering the game for Isaiah Stewart with less than five minutes to play in the first quarter. Stewart had to re-enter the game after just 80 seconds on the bench. With Marvin Bagley III missing and Nerlens Noel back from a foot injury that cost him all of the preseason but still not 100 percent, Dwane Casey said before the game, the Pistons are thin in the frontcourt. Duren only managed to stay on the floor for six first-half minutes, picking up a third foul shortly after returning in the second quarter, but he managed to stay on the floor for 17 second-half minutes and picked up only one more foul. Duren, who became the youngest Pistons player ever to record a double-double in his debut, finished with 8 points and 10 rebounds in 23 minutes. Jaden Ivey also had a few rookie moments, picking up quick fouls of his own – including on the first two possessions of the second half, enabling the Knicks to get into the bonus less than three minutes in the third quarter. Ivey turned it over twice when he stepped on the baseline while trying to squeeze through narrow openings. Ivey finished with 17 points and nine assists, though, another impressive showing despite the missteps.
BENCH BLUES – The Pistons second unit, as in the season opener, had stretches where it really struggled to generate anything offensively. The absences of scoring threats Marvin Bagley III, Alec Burks and Isaiah Livers has robbed the unit of much of its punch. Burks and Livers would provide badly needed 3-point shooting and Bagley an interior presence and vertical threat. The second unit again consisted of Cory Joseph, Killian Hayes, Jalen Duren, Kevin Knox and Hamidou Diallo and that group was outscored 27-4 in the decisive first half and 61-22 for the game. With a back to back at Indiana looming on Saturday, Dwane Casey had to get his starters back in the game earlier than he would have liked in the first half and all but Jaden Ivey played at least 18 first-half minutes with Cade Cunningham and Saddiq Bey playing 19 apiece. Take away Duren’s dunking and the bench’s shooting woes are even more stark. Duren shot XXXX, but the four perimeter players surrounding him were 2 of 17 overall, 0 of 6 from the 3-point line and 0 of 5 (all Diallo) from the foul line.