Detroit — The Pistons won their regular-season opener, 113-109, over the Orlando Magic on Wednesday night at Little Caesars Arena.
There were several memorable moments during the game, including the NBA debuts of Jaden Ivey and Jalen Duren, both first-round picks, along with Bojan Bogdanovic’s scorching shooting night and Cade Cunningham’s poise and willingness to trust his teammates.
Here are five takeaways from the opening victory, ahead of Friday’s road opener against the New York Knicks.
▶ Duren’s double-double: Not many rookies can put up a double-double in their first NBA game, especially off the bench. Duren became the youngest player (18 years, 335 days) since Dwight Howard (18 years, 331 days) to record a double-double in his debut. Duren dominated the boards, as he did all preseason, with 11 rebounds on Wednesday, and reached double digits in scoring (14 points) for the first time. The 6-foot-10 center also had three blocks.
With his performance, Duren became the youngest player in franchise history to record a double-double, and his 11 rebounds are tied for second-most by a Pistons rookie in a league debut since Larry Foust’s 13 in 1950. His first official basket was a goaltend by Mo Bamba, but he made sure his next one was a statement, as he received a lob pass from Killian Hayes.
With Duren’s role increasing as Marvin Bagley III recovers from a knee injury, the Pistons should be able to stay afloat if Duren continues to perform like that off the bench. One prior concern for Duren was his habit of getting into foul trouble. On Wednesday, he went his entire 22 minutes of action without committing a foul. It’s only one game, but it appears as if Duren learns from his mistakes rather quickly.
“Honestly, I just try to go out there and impact the game as best as possible,” Duren said. “We have a lot of good guys who can do a lot of great things. So, with this type of team, I just try to fit in and do what I can do to help the team, and that’s all I tried to do tonight.”
▶ Cunningham’s complete game: Cade Cunningham had 18 points and 10 assists. It was evident from the start that Cunningham would draw defenders from all angles, especially when driving to the basket. Ironically, the second-year guard started the game exactly how he would end it. Cunningham dribbled toward the basket and wrapped a pass around Paolo Banchero to Jaden Ivey for an easy layup. He made a similar read in the final minutes of the game, when he attacked the basket and dished to the corner to Isaiah Stewart for the 3-pointer to put the game out of reach.
Cunningham’s cerebral playmaking is what makes him stand out, able to operate in the pick-and-roll or create his own shot. Despite shooting 6-of-16 from the field, Cunningham was patient and waited for his scoring opportunities to come to him. If he’s able to produce a double-double stat line on a night when he wasn’t shooting the best, it bodes well for Detroit because he can only get better.
▶ Ivey’s NBA debut: Ivey’s first NBA game was sensational. The former Purdue star dropped 19 points on 8-of-15 shooting, including 2-of-3 from the 3-point line. He added four assists, three rebounds and three steals, which were the second-most steals by a Pistons rookie in an NBA debut since Don Reid’s four in 1995.
When Ivey steals the ball, it instantly turns into a Pistons fast break because of his speed. Combined with his skilled passing, it creates scoring opportunities for his teammates. And if the defense stays home on their matchups, Ivey can take the ball from coast to coast, as he did a couple of times on Wednesday. With Ivey’s speed and Cunningham’s playmaking, the Pistons could find themselves with several opportunities to get easy baskets from their young backcourt.
▶ Bogdanovic from 3: Shooters shoot. That’s what Bogdanovic did on Wednesday. The former Utah Jazz forward returned to his scoring ways and led the team with 24 points. He made 50% from the field and 6-of-10 from 3-point range in his first game as a Piston.
The last time Bogdanovic drained six 3-pointers in a game was on March 9, 2021. The Pistons need as many scoring options as possible, especially from beyond the arc. It’s possible that Bogdanovic could step into that role as the guy Detroit wants with the ball in his hands when they need a bucket.
▶ Twelve is the magic number: The Pistons’ preseason was plagued by injuries, mostly away from exhibition games. However, their on-the-court nemeses were turnovers. Detroit averaged 19 turnovers per game through four preseason games. On Wednesday, the number was right where Pistons coach Dwane Casey wanted: 12. By not turning the ball over, the Pistons were able to gain more possessions and more chances to shoot. They had 86 shot attempts, and made 42. Defensively, Detroit forced Orlando into 17 turnovers, with 10 of those giveaways forced by steals. It’s an encouraging sign to see, especially for a young team with multiple rookies playing significant minutes.