Three quick observations from Wednesday night’s 113-109 win over the Orlando Magic at Little Caesars Arena
ELECTRIC OPENER – Isaiah Stewart picked a good time to hit his first triple of the season. After missing his first three, Stewart drained a cold-blooded three from the corner nearest Orlando’s bench with 11.6 seconds to play and the Pistons leading by just one point. It capped a crazy opening night in which the Pistons recovered from a disastrous 19-0 Orlando run in the first quarter to fall 15 points behind. Weird things happen on opening night, but the Pistons erased that 15-point deficit, electrified a full house and got big debuts from veteran Bojan Bogdanovic (24 points, 6 of 10 triples) and rookies Jaden Ivey and Jalen Duren. The Pistons went on a 7-0 run to break a 99-all tie midway through the fourth quarter and they made enough big plays in the final two minutes to get the new season off on the right foot. The Pistons made their first three shots and led 6-2, but sputtered against Orlando’s rangy zone defense after that and saw the Magic take their 15-point lead when they scored on seven straight possessions and eight of nine during the 19-0 run. The Pistons made their first three shots, but only 2 of 13 after that and didn’t make a 3-point shot until early in the second quarter after missing their first 10. But Cory Joseph hit consecutive triples early in the second quarter to launch the comeback and Bogdanovic, after missing his first, drained six in a row. Cade Cunningham finished with a double-double, 18 points and 10 assists – the 10th assist setting up Stewart’s clinching three. The Pistons forced 17 Orlando turnovers and converted them into 21 points, as critical as anything in their comeback.
FOR STARTERS – It seemed Dwane Casey might have been leaning toward Marvin Bagley III starting alongside Isaiah Stewart in a two-big man lineup, but with Bagley out at least another few weeks with a knee injury the lineup that seemed most likely after the late-September trade to bring Bojan Bogdanovic to Detroit came to fruition. Bogdanovic started along with the four players who’d started all four preseason games: Cade Cunningham, Jaden Ivey, Isaiah Stewart and Saddiq Bey. The value of Bogdanovic’s 3-point shooting with Cunningham and Ivey could not have been more obvious in the opener. With Bagley, Alec Burks and Isaiah Livers out, Casey went with a second unit of Killian Hayes, Jalen Duren, Kevin Knox, Cory Joseph and Hamidou Diallo. That unit could use a Bogdanovic-level threat from the 3-point arc, which could be on the horizon with the returns of Livers and Burks. Knox hit 3 of 6 from the 3-point line in his only preseason game, the finale, after missing most of training camp with a calf injury. But he was 1 of 6 in the opener while Killian Hayes went 0 of 3 from the arc and 1 of 9 overall.
ROOKIES ROCK – If the Pistons were ecstatic on draft night with their haul of Jaden Ivey and Jalen Duren, they’re whatever amplifies ecstasy after their NBA debuts. Ivey finished with 19 points four assists and three steals and his athleticism absolutely flashed in the open court and in exploiting cracks in Orlando’s defense. Duren might have been an even bigger revelation as the NBA’s only 18-year-old wound up playing 22 minutes off the bench and played deep into the fourth quarter even though Isaiah Stewart was also playing well. Duren finished with 14 points, 11 boards (six offensive), three blocked shots and an assist before finally coming out of the game with 2:11 to play. Duren also made a handful of impressive defensive plays in the paint in the fourth quarter. Orlando rookie Paolo Banchero, the No. 1 pick, had an impressive launch to his career, as well, finishing with 27 points, nine rebounds and five assists. Duren’s first bucket came on a goaltend call, but his next two underscored the athleticism and vertical threat that were part of the package that enticed Troy Weaver to maneuver for the extra lottery pick he used on Duren. Duren ran the floor for both buckets, the first a lob from Killian Hayes and the second a ferocious poster dunk on Chuma Okeke to pull the Pistons within seven early in the second quarter.