Pistons observations: Detroit rests key players, Jalen Duren shows promise

Detroit News

When the location of the Pistons’ game against Indiana Pacers was changed to the Cox Pavilion instead of the Thomas and Mack Center, there was wide belief that Detroit would rest its key players for Tuesday’s game.

That indeed happened as Jaden Ivey, Saben Lee, Isaiah Livers and Isaiah Stewart did not dress and the Pistons rolled out a new starting lineup.

Detroit fell into a large deficit early on and failed to find its offense, resulting in a 101-87 loss.

After the Pistons’ loss on Tuesday, only two teams remain undefeated in Las Vegas are the Utah Jazz (2-0) and L.A. Clippers (1-0).

The Pistons have two more games left in Las Vegas and it’ll be intriguing to see whether Ivey has played his final Summer League game.

Here are a few more observations from the Pistons’ first loss of the Las Vegas Summer League:

Lee in a boot

Ivey wasn’t the only guard to leave Saturday’s game against the Wizards with an ankle injury. His backcourt teammate Lee was not able to finish the game, and he apparently showed up to Tuesday’s game in a walking boot, according to a photo from James Edwards III of The Athletic.

It’s not ideal when a player is incapable of walking without a boot, so it’ll be interesting to see what happens with Lee going forward.

From foes to teammates

Killian Hayes, Ivey and Lee were unavailable on Tuesday, so Detroit started a backcourt of Charlie Moore and Buddy Boeheim. Moore, a former Miami guard, and Boeheim, who played four years at Syracuse, often competed against each other in the Atlantic Coast Conference in college.

Moore, who’s on a Summer League deal, has played the role of distributor over the past couple of games and showed more of that against the Pacers. There were times when he controlled the flow of the game by driving into the paint to find Duren for an alley-oop dunk, and other occurrences when he’d try to feed the ball into the paint between multiple defenders, resulting in one of his three turnovers.

Boeheim, nicknamed “Buddy Buckets” in college for his superb NCAA Tournament run in 2020-21, tapped into that ability to score in bunches as he knocked down three shots from beyond the arc. Boeheim also had a moment in the fourth quarter when he put the ball on the floor and drained a mid-range jumper, something we haven’t seen him do much of in Las Vegas. Without the offensive services of the Pistons’ best playmakers, Boeheim’s confidence should grow despite the 14-point loss.

All eyes on Duren

Duren is the only Pistons player who has started in all three Summer League games. He didn’t have his best outing, but he often showed flashes of his potential on Tuesday, finishing with 12 points and three rebounds.

He occasionally displayed excellent footwork and the ability to finish, specifically with a reverse layup in the first quarter. He showed patience when he caught the ball in the post and waited for his defender to jump before rising for a one-handed slam in the fourth quarter.

On other offensive possessions in the first half, Duren didn’t have his back to the basket and instead, he opted to face his defender and drive to the basket. He didn’t have much success on those plays, but it showed a willingness to be aggressive and test his offensive game.

In the second half, Duren appeared more comfortable as he received lobbed passes from should benefit more when he has a playmaker such as Cade Cunningham or Ivey attracting multiple defenders and feeding him lob passes.

Cunningham emphasizes defense in offseason

Cade Cunningham hasn’t suited up during this year’s Summer League showcase, but he’s still making appearances during games with a couple of mid-broadcast interviews.

The Pistons’ star guard addressed his offseason workout regimen and identified that he’s looking to improve his defensive abilities and his 3-point shooting, while limiting his turnovers in his forthcoming sophomore season.

“Coach (Dwane) Casey is the leader of the team and he’s really pushing me to improve defensively and just try to stay on the challenge of guarding the best guys,” Cunningham told NBA TV’s Greg Anthony. “That’s just the culture we’re trying to make in Detroit, just taking on the challenge and being able to defend one through five. This offseason, I’m really trying to work on my 3-ball, tightening up my handle and less turnovers and all the scrimmages I’m doing right now, trying to check my turnovers and assists. Take care of the ball so we can get more assists for my teammates.”

Meghan McPeak of NBA TV then mentioned the Pistons’ storied history from the “Bad Boys” and “Goin’ to Work” eras and asked Cunningham how he wanted to bring that culture back to Detroit.

“It all falls back to the same thing the older Detroit Pistons teams were made of, which is toughness, grit, defense — all of those things we’re trying to keep in our identity, but we want to play fast. We want to play exciting. We want to throw lobs, and we want to play together. I think that’s the biggest thing.”

Bagley eyes playoffs

Pistons forward Marvin Bagley was interviewed in the fourth quarter and asked about his role on Detroit’s quest towards its first playoff berth since 2019.

“I’m just trying to do whatever I can to help the team. Whatever coach (Dwane) Casey needs, I’m going to be ready and just keep working,” said Bagley, who re-signed with a three-year contract to remain in Detroit on the first day of free agency earlier this month. “That’s the big goal for me — is just to keep getting better at my game and working on my craft, and contributing to the team so we can win and get to the playoffs.”

When asked by NBA TV sideline reporter Jason Dumas if he thought the playoffs was a realistic goal for the Pistons, Bagley double-downed on his belief in his team.

“Absolutely. That’s on everybody mind,” Bagley said. “We’re not coming to just play around. We’re coming to accomplish our mission and that’s to get to the playoffs and just continue to win games and build something special in Detroit.”

mcurtis@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @MikeACurtis2

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