Pistons observations: Stewart stretches floor, explosive Ivey shines in summer opener

Detroit News

Pistons fans who stayed up into the wee hours of the morning finally got a chance to see what the latest version of their team looked like during the Las Vegas Summer League on Friday.

The Pistons escaped with a narrow 81-78 win over the Portland Trail Blazers, led by No. 5 overall pick Jaden Ivey and Isaiah Stewart, who showed his range from the perimeter.

Despite a late push by Portland, the Pistons were able to maintain their lead with their pressing defense. Detroit had 12 steals and eight blocks in its summer opener.

Here are some early observations from the Pistons’ win over the Trail Blazers:

Ivey’s explosive offensive potential

Ivey started on the left side of the floor, but quickly shifted directions toward the right and drove to the rim for a fancy finish to give the Pistons an 80-75 lead with 31.4 seconds left in the game.

It was his most crucial basket, and it gave Detroit the cushion needed to fend off the Trail Blazers. Ivey finished with 20 points, six rebounds and six assists in 32 minutes.

There were times Ivey looked poised manning the offense, especially when executing the pick-and-roll with No. 13 pick Jalen Duren for lobs at the rim or when he aggressively attacked the basket in transition. He had a couple of highlight dunks, including a two-handed alley-oop slam late in the third quarter.

Other times, he looked a bit out of control and forceful with his handle when driving inside the paint. He had five turnovers in the game, including four in the first half.

During the ESPN broadcast, Pistons coach Dwane Casey said that “Father Time” will naturally slow Ivey down as he gains more experience at the NBA level.

“Time is on his side,” Casey told ESPN’s Doris Burke. “The more reps he gets, the more game situations he has, the game will slow down. Like all young players, the older they get, the slower the game becomes.”

Ivey communicated like a veteran on defensive possessions, pointing out favorable matchups and encouraged his teammates throughout the game.

As for his shot, Ivey went 2-of-5 on 3-pointers. A few of his attempts missed badly, but his makes were pure.

“He’s a young man that — after the draft — stayed in Detroit instead of going home, got up early in the morning, got his shooting in and worked on his threes,” Casey said. “He’s trying to show and prove that he can shoot the 3.”

There was one instance when Ivey’s inexperience at the NBA level showed when the Blazers trapped him in the game’s waning seconds, forcing a jump ball. Ivey made a rookie mistake and threw the ball into the air, causing the officials to assess him a technical foul. The call didn’t matter in the end result, but it’s a mistake that can’t happen once the regular season begins.

Overall, Ivey’s debut was encouraging to see. He’ll likely play off the ball opposite of Cade Cunningham — who did not play on Friday — with less responsibility as a facilitator of the offense. Combine his explosiveness with Cunningham’s playmaking and the Pistons duo has the potential to become one of the best young backcourts in the league.

Stewart’s transition

Stewart provided a glimpse into his offseason work Friday with his consistent ability to knock down 3s. Stewart made the first 3-pointer of the game on a designed pick-and-pop play. Swished it.

Stewart drilled a 3 in rhythm to give the Pistons a 73-69 lead late in the fourth quarter. He followed that shot up with another triple, giving Detroit a five-point lead and much-needed momentum to finish the game.

Friday’s game could offer a glimpse into Stewart’s role going forward. He played primarily at the five last season, but played the power forward when Duren was on the floor.

Dunks by Duren

The game opened with a lob pass from Ivey to Duren, who slammed the ball down with authority. The rookie center offered up an emphatic yell as he swung from the rim, the first of three dunks on the night.

Duren’s dominant inside presence continued when Killian Hayes found him in transition for another alley-oop throw-down, this time over Blazers forward Greg Brown.

On the defensive end, Duren showed that he’s capable of using his athleticism to swat shots as he blocked Brandon Williams’ floater out of bounds midway through the second quarter.

Duren finished with nine points and two blocks in just under 12 minutes of action. Lining Duren up next to Stewart could prove to be a formidable option for Detroit’s frontcourt next season.

Family ties

There were a couple of family reunions in Thomas & Mack Center on Friday.

Ivey had the opportunity to play in front of his mother and current Notre Dame women’s basketball coach Niele Ivey. When asked during the broadcast to grade her son’s first-half performance — eight points and four turnovers — Niele Ivey said Jaden was “trying to find his own.” She spoke glowingly of Ivey and his journey to the NBA during the interview, but ultimately gave him a B-plus grade.

More: ‘It’s like a fairy tale’: Pistons make Jaden Ivey’s introduction a family affair

Longtime Syracuse basketball coach Jim Boeheim and his wife, Juli, were in the stands to support their sons, Buddy and Jimmy.

Buddy Boeheim, who’s on a two-way contract with the Pistons, clocked nearly nine minutes on Friday but went scoreless. Jimmy Boeheim did not play. The brothers could find themselves earning more opportunities with at least three more games on the summer league slate until the championship and consolation schedule is released.

Throwback look

The Pistons’ teal uniforms, worn from 1996-2001, are always a popular topic among fans, and the team’s coaching staff represented the historic era with their attire during Friday’s game.

Summer League coach Jordan Brink and his group of assistants, including former Piston Jason Maxiell, were draped in teal polos with the franchise’s old-school horse logo displayed on the left side.


Twitter: @MikeACurtis2

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