Three quick observations from Sunday night’s 124-117 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers at Little Caesars Arena
BOGEY APPEAL – When it became clear Utah was open for business, trading first Rudy Gobert and then Donovan Mitchell, it was widely assumed other veterans like Bojan Bogdanovic and Mike Conley were available. Though the Lakers were heavily linked to Bogdanovic, along with other contenders like the Suns, the Pistons won the bidding for Bogdanovic, sending Kelly Olynyk and Saben Lee to the Jazz in September and then signing Bogdanovic to an extension through the 2024-25 season a month later. But he’s still eligible to be traded and there remains a belief the Lakers will approach the Pistons again and until the February trade deadline. He gave them every reason to be interested – 25 of them in the third quarter alone. Bogdanovic’s 25-point quarter – one off the franchise record of 26 shared by Will Bynum and Reggie Jackson – came when he hit 7 of 9 shots, including 5 of 6 3-pointers, plus a perfect 6 of 6 free throws that came when he was twice fouled while shooting a 3-point shot. Bogdanovic also picked up two assists in the quarter. His 38 points were a season high and the fourth time he’s scored at least 30 points in a game. The Lakers used guard Dennis Schroder, smaller and quicker, to check Bogdanovic in the fourth quarter and try to keep him from getting the ball, then moved to double team him if he put the ball on the floor.
THAT’S PROGRESS – The Pistons got off to a staggering start against the Lakers, hitting 1 of 9 shots and committing four turnovers to trail 18-5 before Dwane Casey went to his bench for Marvin Bagley III, Alec Burks and Cory Joseph. The Pistons closed the quarter by hitting 8 of 11 shots without another turnover and pulled within six points. The Lakers led by seven when Hayes brought Jaden Ivey and Killian Hayes back for Burks and Hayes midway through the second quarter and the Lakers spurted back to a 14-point lead within three minutes. But what happened next is what Casey is talking about when he says he’s always looking for and encouraging growth. The young backcourt held up much better to Lakers pressure in the second half and they – along with veteran Bojan Bogdanovic’s uncanny shooting – got the Pistons back in the game in the third quarter. Hayes took just six shots, finishing with five points, but registered nine assists. Ivey finished with 16 points. Burks added 11 and Joseph added seven points and seven assists in 21 minutes. The Pistons came as close as two points early in the fourth quarter and then got it back within two on Bogdanovic’s layup off a Jalen Duren offensive rebound and feed with 35 seconds left. Second-year guard Austin Reeves hit an open corner three with 12.4 seconds left to all but clinch the win. The Pistons got 47 points from their bench, led by Saddiq Bey’s 14. He hit 4 of 8 from the 3-point arc.
THE FULL LEBRON – The Pistons got all of the LeBron James experience in his one and only appearance against them this season. James didn’t play when the Pistons went on the road last month, but Anthony Davis covered his absence with 38 points and 16 rebounds, hitting 18 of 21 free throws. James had a 19-point first half en route to a 35-point, five-rebound, five-assist performance. He found Austin Reeves on the critical late possession after the Pistons had pulled within two. Davis took the baton from James midway through the second quarter to become the focal point of the Los Angeles attack and put up big numbers, as well. He finished with 34 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists. Russell Westbrook, whose move to the bench early this season has helped the pieces fall into place for the Lakers, focused more on playmaking than scoring and he was instrumental in finding James for several back-door cuts and easy baskets in the first half. He finished with 11 points, four rebounds and nine assists.