When the Detroit Pistons drafted Jaden Ivey and Jalen Duren in last year’s lottery, it felt like while the Pistons might not be a good team, they were going to be the most fun team Motown’s had in a long while.
They certainly lived up to that billing on opening night in Detroit’s 113-109 victory over the similarly young and exciting Orlando Magic. It’s the first time Detroit has been above .500 since 2019. Ivey scored 19 points, showcasing his quick first step and knocking down a pair of 3s. Duren’s 14 points and 11 rebounds and became the youngest Piston ever to record a double-double.
The superlatives for the Pistons don’t stop with the rookies as just about every player had a moment in front of a rocking Little Caesars Arena crowd. Cade Cunningham obviously enjoyed the athleticism of the rookies and had a double-double of his own with 18 points and 10 assists.
Cade also enjoyed having a new perimeter weapon in Bojan Bogdanovic who showed off his lightning quick release in hitting his 6 threes, including five straight, en route to scoring a team-high 24 points.
Isaiah Stewart also played an incredibly strong defensive game and saved the best for last. With Detroit clinging to a one-point lead, Beef Stew caught the ball in the corner off a Cade drive. Despite missing his first two treys of the game, Stewart hoisted without hesitation and splashed the basket that iced the game.
As great as things looked at the buzzer, it was an ugly night to start the game. The Pistons trailed by 15 early after Orlando went on a 19-0 run in the first quarter. The starters were playing tight, they were sloppy with the ball, and they were letting Orlando’s length dictate the game on both ends.
Then Duren entered the chat and the game completely flipped. His defense gave a charge to a listless team, and his interior presence opened the floor up for Detroit’s guards to go to work.
Then Ivey decided it was his turn to put his imprint on the game, working great off the ball when Cunningham was on the floor. He worked off screens to force switches and then use his quick first step to blow by his defender.
His athleticism translated immediately to the NBA game, and he enjoyed the kind of spacing that should be common with teammates spreading the floor and Duren supplying some rim gravity.
Even if the Pistons lost the game, it would have been difficult leaving not feeling good about the future of the team, and the same can be said for Orlando. Despite coming up short tonight, the Magic got a scintillating 27-point debut from Paolo Banchero, who looked extremely comfortable on the floor.
They also got nice games from Franz Wagner, who worked a lot as the team’s primary facilitator. The former Michigan product had 20 points and five assists. The Magic also got a nice game from Jalen Suggs after some early struggles. After a very tough offensive year his rookie season, Suggs had a smooth looking 3-point stroke and it was working against the Pistons. He had 21 points and hit 4-of-6 from deep.