HOUSTON, TX - MARCH 31: James Wiseman #13 of the Detroit Pistons goes to the basket against the Houston Rockets on March 31, 2023 at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2023 NBAE (Photo by Logan Riely/NBAE via Getty Images)

Free throw disparity too much for Pistons to overcome in Houston

Three quick observations from Friday night’s 121-115 loss to the Houston Rockets at Toyota Center

MEASURING STICK – Two teams with similar records and at similar points amid rebuilding projects used each other as measuring sticks in a well-played and tightly contested game in which neither team led by double digits. They’ll see each other again in May – at the NBA draft lottery, where they’ll again be on equal footing. Their lottery picks from the past three drafts – minus Cade Cunningham, the No. 1 pick in 2021 when Houston picked second for the first of consecutive No. 2 picks – were on display at Toyota Center with Jalen Green, who went to Houston after Cunningham was off the board, scoring 32 while being awarded 16 free throws while his backcourt partner, Kevin Porter Jr. scored 33 and hit 7 of 13 from the 3-point line.The Pistons, Rockets and San Antonio Spurs have clinched the three worst records which gives them the best odds at landing both the No. 1 pick (14 percent) and any top-four pick (52.1 percent). The only benefit to finishing with the worst record for the Pistons would be to guarantee picking no lower than fifth. The Pistons, Rockets and Spurs already are guaranteed a top-seven pick. The Pistons were hurt most at the foul line, where Houston outscored them by 16 and got 19 more attempts.

ROOKIE RECORD – Jaden Ivey broke Dave Bing’s franchise record for rookies by scoring in double figures for a 34th straight game. Ivey got there on the first possession of the second half with a triple – the same way the game started. Ivey finished with 18 points and nine assists with several dazzling passes in the mix. Ivey’s 3-point shooting has picked up as the season has unfolded, though he finished 2 of 9 on Friday when he missed his last six. Ivey shot 33.1 percent from the 3-point line before the All-Star break but came into Friday’s game shooting 37.1 since. In addition to jumping over Bing in the franchise history book, Ivey also tied Trae Young for fifth place among rookies across all franchises over the last 20 seasons and if he pushes the streak of double-dight scoring to 38 he’ll finish his rookie season behind only Blake Griffin (67), Karl-Anthony Towns (41) and Anthony Edwards (40) over that span. Ivey joined his anticipated backcourt partner, Cade Cunningham, as the only rookies in franchise history with 1,000 points, 300 assists, 250 rebounds and 100 3-pointers made.

FRONTCOURT FINDINGS – The Pistons are still sorting out their frontcourt and that’s a process that isn’t going to end this season – they didn’t have a single game since trading for James Wiseman in February where they had all four of their young big men available – but, as in many games, Friday’s narrow loss gave glimpses of how all three of Marvin Bagley III, James Wiseman and Jalen Duren can contribute. Bagley was aggressive early in the game against Rockets rookie Jabari Smith Jr., scoring 11 of his 21 in the first quarter when he took seven shots and attempted four free throws. Wiseman, on his 22ndbirthday, picked up two quick fouls in a scoreless first quarter, but scored all eight of his points in the second when he also blocked two shots. But Wiseman wound up fouling out in just 23 minutes of playing time. Duren, called for a curious technical foul when he raised his arm to fight through a screen and made contact with Kenyon Martin Jr.’s head, was active on the boards in grabbing six rebounds in nine-first half minutes on his way to an 11-point, 10-rebound night.