They’re still bad, but they’re improved.
Orlando, of course, has the services of their talented sophomore, Franz Wagner, while the Pistons have never figured out how to prosper in the post-Cade Cunningham world. But in their first game after the all-star break, Detroit and Orlando provided fans with a fun one.
And wouldn’t you know, the Pistons found a new way to blow a winnable game.
Following Jaden Ivey’s game-tying three with four seconds to go, Isaiah Stewart failed to box out Wendell Carter Jr., who tipped in a Paolo Banchero miss at the buzzer to give the Magic a 108-106 win on Thursday.
What a stupid way to end a really fun game.
Obviously, Stewart is the goat for letting Carter Jr. get by him for the easy tip. Dwane Casey is at fault for going small and keeping Jalen Duren, or James Wiseman, on the bench, as you knew the ball was going to a front court player — Banchero, Wagner or Carter Jr.
But, then again, decisions like the kind of stealth tanking moves that get you where you need to go during a miserable, losing season like this. So, who knows?
It’s just a shame that Ivey’s masterful game goes to waste. He out-played Banchero top to bottom, outscoring him 25 to 11 while adding 4 assists and 2 rebounds. He had a few bad turnovers, but took good care of the ball and made smart decisions as a creator.
And his efficiency — 9 of 13 shooting overall, 4 of 5 from three — were really impressive. He did miss a layup in traffic with a minute to go, then two free throws later, but this was still a really good Ivey game.
If he can put together a big second half, much like Cade last season, he’ll make this team a hell of a lot more compelling — now and in the future.
The rest of the starters were somewhere between bad and alright. Stewart, despite his late brain fart, had a solid game with 10 points and 8 boards. He hit a pair of threes, had a big block on Wagner in the third, and helped get the Pistons back into the game.
Bojan Bogdanovic was bad, missing 9 of his 12 shots while offering little elsewhere. He took a bad shot late in the game and continues to show that in the clutch, he ain’t the guy you want creating. He’s now shooting 37% from the field and 28% from 3 in those situations, worse than both Alec Burks and Ivey.
Duren looked a step slow coming off that ankle injury with 2 points and 8 rebounds. I thought James Wiseman was better tonight. He started off rough, taking some bad shots and looking a bit out of sorts on the boards, but really settled in later.
Wiseman just missed a double-double, finishing with 8 points and 10 rebounds. He’s still learning, and despite the rebounding numbers, he was soft in that area in the first half, but, still, he’s been productive both times he’s played for Detroit.
The more he learns the system and his teammates, the less he’ll think and more he’ll just let the game come to him. I continue to be intrigued by him.
Overall, it’s a tough loss because you want them to win the fun ones. But, as we all know, the losses suck now but will be great later when, instead of Stew getting lost on that last play, it’s Victor Wembanyama chasing down Banchero for the game-winning block.