Detroit Pistons’ rookies, Isaiah Stewart late 3 lead to 113-109 season-opening win vs. Magic

Detroit Free Press

A late 3-pointer by Isaiah Stewart allowed the Detroit Pistons to start off their 2022-23 season with a gutsy win.

Stewart drained the 3, his only make of the night, with 11 seconds left to extend the lead to four. Despite trailing by 15 midway through the first quarter, the Pistons defeated the Orlando Magic at Little Caesars Arena, 113-109, on Wednesday.

Bojan Bogdanovic led the Pistons with 24 points, rookie Jaden Ivey scored 19 points and dished four assists, and Cade Cunningham tallied a double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds. Rookie Jalen Duren also had a double-double with 14 points, 11 rebounds and three assists. Last summer’s No. 1 overall pick, Paolo Banchero, led all scorers with 27 points to go with nine rebounds and five assists.

Ivey, Duren ace rookie debuts

Ivey and Duren were both in the top five on Detroit’s draft board this past summer. They are two of the best athletes in their draft class, and showed glimpses of why during preseason. Ivey is already one of the NBA’s quickest athletes. He commands attention when the ball in his hands, and defenses have to be on full alert when he darts to the rim. Duren is a powerful, high-jumping big man who’s already physically-imposing at 18-years-old.

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Wednesday showed why the Pistons were so thrilled to add the rookie duo. They were two of Detroit’s best players, playing key roles in helping the Pistons eliminate an early 15-point deficit. Ivey got downhill with ease throughout the night, and did most of his damage in the third quarter. He scored 10 points in the period, and his second 3-pointer of the night with 5:35 on the clock extended the lead to 73-68. A late 3-point play with 4:06 to play in the game extended the lead to five once again.

Duren might’ve been the biggest surprise of the night. He had a strong preseason, grabbing double-digit rebounds in all three of his appearances. But it’s tough to predict how teenagers will perform when the games count. He was unphased, proving himself to be a capable rim protector and finisher. Duren finished several lobs and putback dunks, and also logged the first poster moment of his career by slamming one on Chuma Okeke in transition early in the second quarter.

Most impressively, Duren played 22 minutes without picking up a foul. He struggled with foul trouble during preseason. On Wednesday, he played within himself and to his strengths, and made a strong case to be a permanent part of Detroit’s rotation.

Bogdanovic showcases his value

When the Pistons traded for Bogdanovic in September, it was already clear what they’d be getting. A career 39.2% outside shooter, he’s a proven veteran marksman and all-around strong offensive player. He immediately made the Pistons a better, more-experienced team.

Wednesday highlighted why the Pistons were eager to acquire him, as he led the team with 24 points and hit six of his 10 3-point attempts. His pull-up 3 with 3:40 to play in the third gave the Pistons a 12-point lead. He scored 22 of his 24 points in the second and third quarters, helping Detroit take control of a game that nearly escaped them early.

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Pistons catch fire after cold start

The first quarter was a continuation of the Pistons’ preseason offensive woes. Orlando used a 19-0 run to build a 21-6 lead midway through the period. Detroit shot 7-for-22 overall (31.8%) and 0-for-8 from 3 (0.0%) in the opening period. The team struggled to find a rhythm, to say the least.

The Pistons’ fortunes changed dramatically though. After missing their first 10 from behind-the-arc, they made 5 of 9 attempts in the second quarter and 8 of 14 in the third. Orlando’s start to the game was unsustainably hot; they shot 57.9% in the first quarter but finished shooting 48.8% with 18 turnovers.

Contact Omari Sankofa II at osankofa@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @omarisankofa.

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