DETROIT, MI - FEBRUARY 3: Isaiah Stewart #28 of the Detroit Pistons drives to the basket against the Charlotte Hornets on February 3, 2023 at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, Michigan. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2023 NBAE (Photo by Brian Sevald/NBAE via Getty Images)
Three quick observations from Friday night’s 118-112 the Charlotte Hornets at Little Caesars Arena
GOOD VIBES – The Pistons have a lot of games they could put in the “should have won” column. Friday was trending that way, courtesy of an avalanche of Detroit turnovers to keep Charlotte alive, but they cut out their mistakes in crunch time – just in time – and came back from seven down in the fourth quarter to earn a satisfying win after a trying week that saw them stranded for three extra nights in Dallas due to weather and airline complications. Jaden Ivey played one of his best games, Jalen Duren and Isaiah Stewart dominated the glass and the Pistons finished the game on a 21-8 run to notch their second win over Charlotte this season. The Pistons tied their season high with 23 turnovers with 4:38 to play, but didn’t commit another down the stretch. Ivey finished with 24 points and seven assists – and only one turnover in his 30 minutes – and fellow rookie Jalen Duren finished with 13 points and 13 rebounds. Saddiq Bey had 22 points off the bench and his a clutch triple with 32 seconds left to break a 112-all tie.
GO BIG – Isaiah Stewart was back in the starting lineup and Saddiq Bey came off the bench and had one of his best rebounding games, finishing with 16, one off his season high, and he also recorded a career-best six assists. Dwane Casey went to the two-big lineup first in mid-November when he started Stewart and Marvin Bagley III, but it lasted one game before Stewart missed seven games with a toe injury. In early December, Casey swapped Bagley and Jalen Duren on the belief Duran and Stewart fit more cleanly – Duren a pure center as opposed to Bagley being more accustomed to drifting from the basket – and Duren has remained the starter ever since. But with Bagley going out in early January with a hand injury likely to sideline him through February, Casey has been wary of starting both Duren and Stewart and risk foul trouble that would leave the Pistons undersized.
IVEY’S JOURNEY – When the Pistons learned that Cade Cunningham’s shin injury was going to be season-ending – the good news is that Cunningham’s recovery is going ideally and they expect he’ll be able to resume some basketball activities as soon as next month and be fully ready by season’s end for a normal off-season – the silver lining they clung to was added experience as lead playmakers for Killian Hayes and Jaden Ivey, the latter especially. Ivey came to the NBA with scant experience as a point guard, playing largely off the ball during his two years at Purdue, but his physical gifts make him a potentially dynamic force if he can master the craft of directing offense. He’s undeniably showing signs of turning the corner and Friday’s outing against Charlotte was one of his best. Ivey’s numbers were impressive: 24 points on 8 of 11 shooting, hitting 4 of 4 from the 3-point arc and 4 of 4 at the foul line. But it’s equally notable how he’s sharpened his decision-making and has pared down the number of times he fails to recognize when he’s dribbling himself into a crowd. Ivey scored efficiently at all three levels against the Hornets, Ivey, who’ll join fellow rookie Jalen Duren in the Rising Stars games for All-Star weekend, is third among rookie scorers (15.1) and first among rookie assists (4.5).