The bad news is the Detroit Pistons dropped the most winnable game on their remaining schedule, falling 121-115 to the Houston Rockets. The good news, if you’re looking for it, is that the loss nearly cements Detroit’s status as the team who will finish with the worst record in the NBA. Therefore, Detroit is not only assured of the best odds of a top-three pick in the NBA draft lottery, but if luck does not strike, they could only fall as far as fourth.
The 2023 NBA Draft is top-heavy so you’re not finding a player at No. 4 like you would Scoot Henderson at No. 2, much less consensus No. 1 pick Victor Wembanyama. But the fourth pick is also not the seventh pick.
Need more good news? There are only five games remaining.
The contest between the Rockets and the Pistons was a close, back-and-forth contest. I suppose that should be expected when you have the league’s two worst teams against each other. Each team’s young contributors had plenty of time to shine, and made plenty of mistakes along the way.
Nobody would shine brighter than Houston’s young backcourt of Kevin Porter Jr and Jalen Green. Both players struggled on D and made plenty of head-scratching plays. But they also made plenty of difficult shots — sometimes making shots more difficult than they needed to be.
Porter led all scorers with 33 points including seven three-pointers. Green wasn’t far behind with 32 points and 16 free-throw attempts, making 10.
Detroit was led by Marvin Bagley with 21 points. Bagley continud his strong offensive play and absolutely feasted inside against Houston’s undersized interior. Those 21 points were part of 60 inside for Detroit, but it still wasn’t enough.
Houston’s athleticism created consistent advantages for the Rockets. They outrebounded Detroit by 11 and coaxed 18 more free-throw attempts.
Detroit was able to offer little resistance partly because of early foul trouble by the trio of Bagley, James Wiseman and Jalen Duren. Each had two fouls within two minutes of the second quarter.
It was largely a game to forget for James Wiseman, who was also celebrating his 22nd birthday. Limited to just eight points and four rebounds in 23 minutes, Wiseman fouled out with just under four minutes to go and Detroit trailing by one.
Wiseman struggled with positioning and awareness throughout the night, giving up plenty of easy looks and open lanes for Houston’s wings and big men.
Duren was much stronger off the bench. He had solid positioning down low and rarely gave up ground to Houston’s bigs. He had 11 points and 10 rebounds in 25 minutes.
Detroit’s other rookie didn’t fare so well. Jaden Ivey did plenty of good things on the floor. He hit his first three in each half, and he had some truly electric passes. But he also was inefficient and made questionable decisions as. scorer. He had 18 points but was just 8-of-2 from the floor including 2-o-9 from deep.
Ivey’s struggles were especially pronounced in crunch time. After a blazing driving layup with 5:38 to go tied the game at 104 came forced shots, early shots, bad passes and questionable decisions.
He shot an early 31-foot three-point attempt with his team trailing by two for some reason and then followed that up with a sloppy pass into traffic that was stolen, and he forced a drive inside that was easily blocked.
By then the Pistons were down by four and the game was lost.
Other Pistons performances of note: Isaiah Livers played mostly well on both ends of the floor and finished wth 12 points and hit three three-pointers. Killian Hayes had a relatively quiet 10-point, six-assist performance, but his passing and defense were sorely needed all night. Lastly, Cory Joseph scored 17 points off the bench, but he was really hunted all night on the defensive end. He was too small, too old, and too slow to handle Houston’s aggressive young guards and switching big men.