Three quick observations from Monday night’s 115-111 loss to the Toronto Raptors at Little Caesars Arena
QUICK GLIMPSE – The Pistons had a different look Monday and it went beyond their newly unveiled green St. Cecilia-themed uniforms. Dwane Casey inserted Marvin Bagley III into the starting lineup. Casey wanted to make the Pistons bigger, so Bagley moved into the lineup alongside Isaiah Stewart. Alas, it might be a short-lived experiment. Stewart suffered a sprained right foot late in the first half when he chased after a loose ball and crashed into the protective barrier separating fans from the court along the baseline. Bagley just returned to the lineup on Saturday, missing the season’s first 13 games with a knee injury suffered in preseason. Whether it was the unfamiliar lineup combinations or Toronto’s pressure defense, the Pistons looked out of sync and error-prone offensively for three quarters. They committed nine first-quarter turnovers and finished with 19. In addition to turnovers, the Pistons were hurt by 12 missed free throws. Jaden Ivey led a comeback that saw the Pistons, down by 15 points in the second half, pull within a point with seven minutes to play. Ivey’s strong rookie season continues to gather momentum. Toronto acknowledged Ivey’s impact when they switched reigning Rookie of the Year Scottie Barnes on to Ivey in the fourth quarter. He finished with 21 points, four rebounds and eight assists. Toronto’s win snapped a six-game losing streak to the Pistons.
NEW ROLE – It looked like Dwane Casey had in mind bringing Bojan Bogdanovic off the bench in the preseason, when that’s what he did for two of the first three games before Marvin Bagley III’s injury streamlined Casey’s decision-making process. But with Bagley back and elevated to the starting lineup and Bogdanovic such a vital cog of the starting lineup’s offense, it was Saddiq Bey – who has started 149 of 167 career games – who was chosen to come off the bench. That was scrubbed in the second half, though, when Isaiah Stewart was ruled out with a foot injury and Bey went back in the starting lineup. Bey entered the game with four minutes left in the first quarter and played the next 16 minutes consecutively to finish the first half. He finished with nine pints, six rebounds and three assists in 30 minutes. Bey, who has started 149 of 167 career games, had seen his shot attempts fall from 13.9 per game last season to 11.6 this season. The Pistons bench had been outscored in 10 of 14 games going into Monday, so Bey figured to get his number dialed up more often coming off the bench. That plan apparently will get put on hold pending the update on Stewart’s status. Bogdanovic was visibly frustrated with himself on a few occasions on Monday, a night that saw him shoot just 2 of 8 from the 3-point line – he hit one with 57 seconds left to pull the Pistons within three points – commit five turnovers and miss 4 of his 10 free throws.
BURKS BOOSTER – With Cade Cunningham unavailable and Cory Joseph also out due to left hip soreness, Alec Burks was pressed into duty as the emergency point guard when Dwane Casey had Killian Hayes and Jaden Ivey out at the same time. Burks, playing in his second game after missing the season’s first 12 and debuting with 17 points on Friday at New York, again scored in bunches and with efficiency. The veteran, who is averaging 12.3 points off the bench since 2018 which ranks eighth among bench scorers, finished with 15 points in 17 minutes, hitting 5 of 7 shots and 2 of 3 from the 3-point line. Whenever the Pistons get healthy, a second unit that consists of Killian Hayes and Burks in the backcourt with Jalen Duren at center and Isaiah Livers and Bey at forward is one that should give them an optimal combination of size and 3-point shooting. Burks is a likely candidate to be a frequent option for Casey in closing lineups given his proven ability to create his own scoring chances. Burks played a critical stretch of the fourth quarter, but was replaced by Saddiq Bey with 3:23 to play.