DETROIT, MI - OCTOBER 13: Isaiah Stewart #28 of the Detroit Pistons drives to the basket during the game against the Memphis Grizzlies on October 13, 2022 at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, Michigan. 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 2022 NBAE (Photo by Chris Schwegler/NBAE via Getty Images)

Stewart’s 3s, Knox’s debut the headliners as Pistons fall to Memphis in finale

Three quick observations from Thursday night’s 126-111 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies at Little Caesars Arena

BOMBS AWAY – One of the storylines worth the most scrutiny as the Pistons embark on the regular season – their preseason now complete with Thursday’s loss – will be how Isaiah Stewart handles his new-found freedom to launch 3-pointers and what impact that will have on how Dwane Casey manipulates his rotation and how often the Pistons play big with Stewart at power forward alongside Jalen Duren, Nerlens Noel or Marvin Bagley III. Memphis backed off Stewart and invited him to shoot 3-pointers and Stewart squeezed off eight in the first half alone. After missing his first four, Stewart hit three in a row and finished 4 of 10 in a 16-point, nine-rebound night over 23 minutes. The fact he never hesitated to take the fifth triple after starting 0 of 4 was probably as positive a sign for Casey as anything else to take from the preseason finale. If teams play Stewart loose, he looks completely at ease launching. Stewart, 21, got off to a slow start as an NBA sophomore after a summer ankle injury – suffered while participating with USA Basketball as part of the Select Team – and the adjustment to going from backup to starter against better competition. But he gathered momentum in the second half of last season and is poised to make a jump. The Pistons trailed by as many as 15 points in the first half, but pulled within seven at halftime and tied the game at 70 four minutes into the third quarter before Memphis went on an 11-0 run to re-establish its lead. Saddiq Bey and Cade Cunningham recovered from slow starts – the Pistons shot 24 percent in the first quarter and were 2 of 16 from three. Bey wound up with 17 points and eight rebounds, Cunningham with 15 points, six rebounds and six assists.

OPPORTUNITY KNOX – Kevin Knox didn’t get much traction in his three-plus seasons in New York or his half-season in Atlanta, but he opened eyes during summer workouts with the Pistons to put him on the radar for playing time. Knox made his debut after missing the first three preseason games and much of training camp with a calf injury, checking in with 5:17 left in the first quarter and contributing 13 points in 19 minutes, hitting 3 of 6 from the 3-point arc. Knox, who turned 23 only in August, was the ninth pick in the 2018 draft out of Kentucky after his freshman season and had a reasonably productive rookie season for the Knicks, starting 57 games and averaging 12.8 points while shooting .343 from the 3-point arc. The Pistons see Knox as a guy who can work his way into the rotation and unlock the potential that saw him rated a top-10 recruit in the class of 2017 who did enough at Kentucky to get picked in the lottery. He’s got an easy 3-point stroke and the length and athleticism to get his shot off over most defenders. Knox struggled defensively early in his career but the Pistons also see a capable defender emerging. Knox also showed the ability to be more than just a 3-and-D wing with a few nice passes and off-the-dribble moves, as well.

The Pistons also have high hopes for Isaiah Livers, their second-round pick in 2021 who played 18 games as a rookie after rehabilitating from foot surgery in March 2021.

ROUGH NIGHT FOR ROOKIES – Lottery picks Jaden Ivey and Jalen Duren had a few welcome-to-the-NBA moments in the preseason finale, each getting into quick foul trouble. Duren picked up fouls on his first two defensive possessions after entering the game in the first quarter and had to take a seat when he picked up a third foul in four minutes of playing time. Ivey picked up four first-half fouls, the last two just 15 seconds apart late in the first half before Dwane Casey had a chance to sub him out with three fouls. The Purdue rookie’s fifth foul came at 8:26 of the third quarter. He managed to play the rest of the way without fouling out, finishing with seven points, three rebounds and four assists in 21 minutes, shooting 3 of 11 and going 0 of 4 from three. Around the foul trouble, both flashed the ability that has the Pistons excited about their futures. Ivey set up the second basket of the game by grabbing a defensive rebound, accelerating past Memphis big men Steven Adams and Santi Aldama at mid-court, penetrating the paint and finding Cade Cunningham for an open 3-pointer before the Grizzlies could set up their defense. He got the crowd to its feet in the fourth quarter when he split a double team along the sideline and soared over a third defender for a flying dunk. Duren, 18, swatted Desmond Bane’s driving layup attempt by pinning it off the top of the square above the rim and followed up Bojan Bogdanovich’s missed layup with an emphatic put-back dunk. And he continued to rebound effectively. Duren logged 15 minutes of time in the second half before fouling out, finishing with seven points and 12 rebounds in 19 minutes.