Jaden Ivey shines as playmaker; Detroit Pistons fall to Damian Lillard, Blazers, 110-104

Detroit Free Press

With fewer than 20 games left, the Detroit Pistons have suffered long injury reports through March. They were shorthanded once again on Monday while hosting a Portland Trail Blazers team with its two best players — Damian Lillard and Jerami Grant — in the starting lineup.

Both players starred as Portland handed the Pistons a 110-104 loss at Little Caesars Arena. Detroit trailed by as many as 17 points in the final period, but cut it to six with 1:39 remaining following a 3-point play by Jaden Ivey.

It was a strong night for the Pistons rookie, who dished a career-high 13 assists and also had 13 points for a double-double. Isaiah Livers scored a season-high 17 points, and Cory Joseph added 14.

Isaiah Stewart (right hip soreness), Jalen Duren (bilateral ankle soreness), Bojan Bogdanovic (bilateral Achilles soreness), Killian Hayes (left hand contusion) and Rodney McGruder (left ankle sprain) all did not play. Hayes, McGruder and Wiseman (left knee soreness) were listed as questionable before the opening tip, but Wiseman was able to play after receiving treatment on his knee.

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Grant, in his first trip to Detroit since being traded to Portland last summer, finished with 26 points. Lillard tallied a triple-double with 31 points, 13 rebounds and 12 assists for former Pistons great Chauncey Billups, who was hired as Portland’s head coach in 2021.

Ivey has best night as playmaker

Slowly and steadily, Ivey has made the transition from inconsistent playmaker to Detroit’s best all-around point guard. March has been his best month as a passer, averaging a career-high 5.8 assists against just 2.6 turnovers — his first month with an assist-to-turnover ratio better than 2-1.

Monday was his best game running the offense yet. He tallied 10 assists — one short of his previous career-high — before recording his lone turnover late in the third quarter on an offensive foul. It was another turnover-filled night for Detroit, which finished with 16 after committing 23 against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday.

Ivey did most of his damage during a second-quarter stretch that saw the Pistons cut a 17-point deficit to eight entering halftime. He checked in midway through the quarter and contributed to 19 of Detroit’s remaining 23 points, scoring eight points and assisting on four buckets, including 3-pointers by Livers, Alec Burks and Cory Joseph.

Livers plays most complete game of season

After shooting 42.2% from 3 as a rookie last season, Livers has been up-and-down this season. He entered Monday’s game with a 36.6% clip from behind-the-arc, but has been hitting them at a 37.5% clip since returning from a shoulder injury on Jan. 11. The injury cost him 20 games, and he’s been working to find a consistent flow since making his way back into the rotation.

Monday was his best game of the year, making 7 of 10 shots and 3 of 5 3-point attempts. We already knew he could shoot, but he did most of his early scoring on smart cuts and drives to the rim. Livers takes most of his shots from 3, but he’s also been highly efficient at the rim. The coaching staff has encouraged him to attack the basket more. He was rewarded for it against the Blazers.

Livers was Lillard’s defensive assignment. The superstar started off hot with 16 points on 6-for-11 shooting in the opening quarter, but Livers hounded him and he eventually cooled off, scoring eight points and shooting 2-for-12 in the second half.

Grant explodes in third

Grant received a warm ovation during pregame introductions. The Pistons’ longtime public address announcer, John Mason, called his name as the Jumbotron posted a welcome message with his photo. Grant, who signed a three-year, $60 million contract with the Pistons during the 2020 offseason and was traded last summer, led the team in scoring during his two seasons and established himself as one of the league’s better two-way players.

When Lillard’s scoring pace slowed down in the second half, Grant picked up the pace. He scored 17 points of his 23 in the third quarter to give Portland a 15-point lead at the end of the period, helping them cruise through most of the final period before a late run allowed Detroit to cut the margin to six with less than two minutes left.

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

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