It has officially been two games with James Wiseman, Marvin Bagley, and Jalen Duren all in the Detroit Pistons' rotation. Through two games, the results haven’t been what one would call inspiring. The latest was a 121-115 defeat at the hands of the Indiana Pacers.
The Pacers, like the Pistons, came into this game severely shorthanded. Tyrese Haliburton, Myles Turner, and Bennedict Mathurin all missed action due to injury, leaving Indiana severely undersized. This, in theory, opened up the room for Detroit’s bigs to dominate the game. What happened, however, was the opposite.
The Pistons were outrebounded 58-42 and outscored in the paint 64-56. Indiana set the tone in the first half, leading by as many as 16 points. Simply put, they wanted it more and played with more consistent energy throughout all four quarters.
When the buzzer ultimately sounded, another noble second half run yet again fell short.
Of the three Pistons bigs, the one that’s been the most impacted has been Marvin Bagley. With James Wiseman assuming the responsibilities at the 5 and getting touches in the interior, Bagley was often forced to be out on the perimeter. As a result, Marvin finished with 6 points and 5 rebounds in 22 minutes, leaving in the third quarter with ankle soreness. Not only did Bagley look physically uncomfortable throughout the night, he looked uncomfortable in his role as well.
It was also another outing for James Wiseman that simultaneously showcased his flashes of offensive brilliance and his areas of inconsistency. In the end, Wiseman finished with just 9 rebounds against a Pacers team that was entirely 6-foot-9 and under. Jalen Duren, coming off the bench, in two less minutes, finished the game with 11 boards of his own. It was also another solid performance on a solid rookie campaign for Duren, finishing with 16 points going 8-of-10 from the free-throw line. But even Duren should’ve been able to control the boards in his minutes as well, something Duren admitted in the postgame press conference.
We hear from Jalen Duren after he posts 16 points and 11 rebounds in Saturday's loss to the Pacers. #DetroitBasketball pic.twitter.com/ejQP9mUxfg— Bally Sports Detroit (@BallySportsDET) March 12, 2023
With Jaden Ivey missing this contest due to health and safety protocols, the main ball handling responsibilities returned to the hands of Killian Hayes. The result was the best game the third-year guard has had since before the Paris game. Hayes notched 17 points and 13 assists, being the catalyst of Detroit’s second-half run. Another player that helped lead the charge was second year forward Isaiah Livers. In his best offensive game as a pro, Livers went for 18 points, four rebounds, four steals, and two assists.
Killian Hayes ➡️ Isaiah Livers#Pistons I @ThinkFordFirst pic.twitter.com/6nbiW6cjxX— Bally Sports Detroit (@BallySportsDET) March 12, 2023
Ever since the minutes have opened up for the second-round pick out of Ann Arbor, he’s shown exactly why Troy Weaver has been adamant to include Livers as a piece of their core moving forward. The most impressive part of his attack on the offensive end was that his shot wasn’t his primary weapon tonight. Rather, it was the threat of his shooting and his off-ball cutting that created multiple easy points at the basket. His game sense on both ends is impeccable. He makes winning plays, and will be part of winning wherever he is in the NBA.
The Pistons will have a chance at redemption against the Pacers at the same time, same place on Monday night. Regardless of who will be in the lineup, it will be imperative for the Pistons chances to have the presence of their bigs be felt in a massive way. It’s one thing to have the muscle, but a whole different thing to have the motor.