Three quick observations from Friday night’s 118-97 loss to the Toronto Raptors at Scotiabank Arena
EARLY AVALANCHE – Turnovers and transition defense dug the Pistons a 14-point hole in the first quarter and – against a Toronto team desperately fighting for a foothold in the postseason picture – they never really could pull themselves out of it. The Pistons committed six first-quarter turnovers and Toronto scored 11 of their 38 points in the quarter via the fast break. By halftime, those numbers swelled to 12 turnovers and 19 fast-break points to put the Pistons down by 20 points. The Pistons tacked on seven more turnovers in the third quarter, blunting any chance to turn momentum and get back in the game. The Pistons committed only three in the fourth quarter, allowing them to avoid tying or exceeding their season high of 23 turnovers at Cleveland on March 4. Toronto, which scored 23 points off turnovers and 24 in transition, began the night in the ninth spot, a half-game ahead of Chicago in 10th and one game behind Atlanta in eighth. The top six spots are guaranteed a playoff berth but spots seven through 10 must get to the postseason via the play-in tournament. Pascal Siakam scored 26 of his 32 in the first half to lead Toronto.
REVOLVING DOOR – The Pistons got Jalen Duren and Isaiah Livers back, but didn’t have veterans Rodney McGruder and Cory Joseph available for their matchup with Toronto. Duren missed Tuesday’s game at Atlanta after suffering cervical whiplash in Sunday’s loss to Miami when he collided with the Heat’s Kevin Love. He exhibited no ill effects, playing with high energy and being active at both ends in his 25 minutes behind James Wiseman off the bench. Duren finished with nine points and five rebounds, but also made a few dazzling passes to finish with four assists. For as young as he is and as much development as lies ahead, Duren has flashed some intriguing ballhandling, passing and movement skills on offense and his footwork has improved noticeably over the course of the season. Livers had missed the last four games with hip soreness. He missed much of training camp and the first two regular-season games with a hip injury, as well. Livers started and went scoreless while taking just one shot in the first half, but hit a 3-pointer on the second half’s first possession and finished with 12 points, four rebounds and two assists. The Pistons were without Bojan Bogdanovic, Alec Burks, Isaiah Stewart, Cade Cunningham and Hamidou Diallo in addition to Joseph and McGruder.
FAST COMPANY – The bright spot for the Pistons amid a not-so-bright start to Friday’s game was Jaden Ivey. Ivey scored 11 of the Detroit’s 26 first-quarter points and had three of seven assists to keep the Pistons from losing contact completely. In the process, Ivey joined two all-time franchise greats – Dave Bing and Grant Hill – plus his future backcourt partner, Cade Cunningham, as the only Pistons rookies to top 1,000 points, 300 assists and 250 rebounds when he scored his first bucket of the game. Ivey had a rough time in the second quarter, though, committing five turnovers and finishing with nine, most of them on passes squeezed into tight quarters. He scored efficiently, leading the Pistons with 20 points and eight assists on 7 of 13 shooting. Ivey, the fifth pick in last June’s draft, is a strong contender for the NBA All-Rookie team and sports averages of 15.4 points, 3.9 rebounds and 4.9 assists. It was the 31st straight game for Ivey scoring in double figures, putting him behind only Dave Bing – who had separate streaks of 32 and 33 in 1966-67.