Coming out of the All-Star break, the Detroit Pistons have a complicated task. On one hand, the Pistons should want to be as competitive as possible to close the season. On the other, there is the looming reality of the NBA Draft and the importance for Detroit to have the best chance possible to land Victor Wembanyama. So what is the perfect recipe for the Pistons to have a successful end to their campaign? In my personal opinion, it’s a stretch of competitive losses that showcase the development of their young players. In two games since the break, Detroit has managed to do just that. The Pistons fell short to the Toronto Raptors 95-91 despite a late 8-0 run sparked by Cory Joseph, Marvin Bagley and the reserves. 95 points is also the least Detroit has allowed this season, and the Raptors shot only 37 percent from the field.
Pistons turning defense to offense with another J-Wise dunk!#Pistons | @ThinkFordFirst pic.twitter.com/ccQfowGKdu— Bally Sports Detroit (@BallySportsDET) February 25, 2023
Marvin Bagley returned to the lineup for the first time in six weeks looking like he hadn’t missed a beat. Bagley finished with 21 points and 18 rebounds (11 of them on the offensive end!). He looked like he was playing with a purpose, and came out getting 13 rebounds in the first half alone. Not only was Bagley able to get a career high, he was also the fifth reserve in Pistons history to get 20+ points and 15+rebounds in a single game. Not bad for someone who has been on the sidelines for the majority of the season. Because of Bagley and the rest of the bigs' efforts, Detroit outrebounded the Raptors 62-46. They also won the battle in the paint, outscoring Toronto 52-48. All of this, mind you, without Jalen Duren in the lineup.
Not on Beef Stew's watch ✋#Pistons | @ThinkFordFirst pic.twitter.com/U5YA5CNX9I— Bally Sports Detroit (@BallySportsDET) February 25, 2023
So how did the Pistons lose, you might ask? With the increased intensity on the defensive end, Detroit committed 27 fouls and allowed the Raptors to take 34 free throws. The Pistons only took 14 free throws, making it a disparity of 20 attempts. To make matters worse, Detroit turned the ball over 16 times compared to Toronto’s 8, 12 of them coming from their starting unit alone. Outside of Marvin Bagley, the offensive production was sparse. Jaden Ivey followed up his stellar performance in Orlando with a 3-16 performance from the field. Even Bojan Bogdanovic was only able to produce 11 points and went 0-3 from beyond the three. The game as a whole was sloppy on both ends, but in part because of the energy and intensity Detroit brought on the defensive end. The All-Star Break cobwebs are definitely still present, and the turnovers are definitely a consistent problem. But if they can continue to hold teams under 30 points a quarter, the Pistons are going to be in a lot more games. And they will hav a far better chance to pull out a win that way than getting in an offensive shootout.
Isaiah Stewart left the game in the middle of the third quarter with right hip soreness. Stewart was visibly on the bike behind the bench after the game, so hopefully it’s nothing serious. On a more positive note, this game also marked the home debuts for both James Wiseman and R.J. Hampton. While Hampton’s afternoon was brief with just five minutes of action, James Wiseman made his first start as a Piston. Wiseman’s first start was also his first double double in Detroit, notching 10 points and 10 boards while fouling out after 20 minutes of action. Although James Wiseman is very much still raw, it’s easy to see why the Warriors took him second overall. It’s also understandable why Troy Weaver is a Wiseman believer. Albeit a short sample size, the first three games of his Pistons career have had promising returns. It is impossible, however, to not notice the glaring similarities between the games of James Wiseman and Marvin Bagley. This clip posted by John Schuhmann of NBA.com says it all.
James Wiseman & Marvin Bagley Spider-Man meme. pic.twitter.com/ugbgqonClo— John Schuhmann (@johnschuhmann) February 25, 2023
Detroit will travel to Charlotte on Tuesday to play Lamelo Ball and the Hornets in what will be an important game in the Wembanyama sweepstakes. Although the Hornets have three more wins than the Pistons, both teams are looking to strengthen their odds for the lottery. Whichever team slips between Detroit and Charlotte will have the fourth best lottery odds. Meaning that team is most likely to slide out of the top five. That doesn’t change, however, the importance of playing competitive basketball down the stretch, and building momentum for their 2023-24 campaign. It would be good for this team’s spirit to earn competitive wins to close the season. But it most certainly would not hurt to cushion their lead over Charlotte for the best odds in the lottery. It is officially the time of the tank, friends. To quote the Hunger Games, “May the odds ever be in your favor”.