Summer League action officially tipped off for the Detroit Pistons in an 81-78 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers.
The Pistons opened up the scoring with a big splash. From the top of the three-point line, Killian Hayes threaded an entry pass to a cutting Jaden Ivey. The 20-year-old Purdue product quickly lobbed the ball up to Jalen Duren for an easy dunk.
The Trail Blazers tied the game on the following possession, but the Pistons retook the lead and did not look back.
The team started off hot jumping out to a 10-point lead by the end of the first quarter. The offense played well with good ball movement from Hayes helping the team find open looks. Third-year point guard Saben Lee capped off the opening quarter with a deep three-pointer to stretch the lead to 29-19.
In the second half, the ball movement stopped. Lee and other ball-handlers held onto the ball resulting in a much more stagnant offense. The Pistons only posted 12 points in the second quarter, and the Trail Blazers drew closer with a 41-34 halftime score.
Ivey took flight in the third quarter. With just over three minutes remaining, Braxton Key stole the ball and ran out in transition. Ivey sprinted in as a trailer and finished a lob from Key. Ivey followed his finish up with another transition dunk less than a minute later. Despite highlight plays from the fifth overall pick, Portland continued to close the gap in the third quarter cutting Detroit’s lead to 61-57.
The Trail Blazers managed to tie the game early in the fourth quarter. While Detroit managed to regain the lead, the score remained close throughout the rest of the game. With less than two minutes left in the game, Isaiah Stewart knocked down back-to-back three-pointers. Ivey iced the game with a transition layup.
Jaden Ivey shines in Pistons Summer League debut
As expected, Cade Cunningham and Saddiq Bey did not suit up to play against Portland. With those two out, Ivey had plenty of opportunities to showcase his talents, leading the team in both scoring and assists with 20 points and six assists.
Three-point shooting was a major point of emphasis for Ivey coming out of college. While he shot 35.8 percent from beyond the arc in his sophomore season at Purdue, Ivey struggled with consistency.
The 20-year-old came out of the gates shooting at will. Ivey sank two out of his four attempts from beyond the arc in the first half. He nearly sank a third; however, it was called off due to an offensive foul. Ivey’s three-point shot slowed down in the second half. He only attempted one shot from beyond the arc. He missed it.
Ivey flashed the electrifying athleticism synonymous with his game. Along with his two transition dunks, Ivey wove through traffic and generated easy layups at the rim. He drew a couple of fouls on other drive attempts as well.
However, Ivey was far from perfect. He committed five turnovers against Portland. The most egregious of which was an embarrassing pass where Ivey tried to throw the ball backward over his head. He also settled for difficult looks at the basket when his driving lane was cut off.
Overall, Ivey was as advertised in his Summer League debut. He made a handful of highlight-reel finishes around the rim, showcasing his incredible athleticism. But, his inconsistent shooting and turnover issues were on display as well. A solid performance from the 20-year-old, but there is plenty of room for growth.
The rest of the young core contributes to a close victory
Outside of Ivey, the rest of Detroit’s young core players put in solid performances as well.
Hayes was in his element dishing the ball all around the court. The 20-year-old point guard made great reads on multiple passes leading to four assists. On defense, Hayes shrouded opposing ball-handlers and recorded one steal on the night. Oh, he knocked down one of his three attempts from beyond the arc too.
Stewart nearly managed a double-double finishing the game with 13 points and nine rebounds. Stewart was aggressive on defense securing both a steal and a block. However, his aggression also resulted in four personal fouls. Most notably, Stewart shot really well from beyond the arc. The 21-year-old made three out of his four attempts from three-point range. Stretching the floor has been a point of emphasis for Stewart this offseason, so it is a good sign that the big man is letting them fly early on.
Like Stewart, Isaiah Livers made his imprint on the defensive end of the court. The 23-year-old forward flew in on multiple block attempts. Livers finished the game with two blocks and one steal. He knocked down an early three-pointer in the first quarter, but Livers struggled from beyond the arc after. He finished the game with only one made three-pointer out of his eight attempts.
Duren did not get much playing time. The 18-year-old big man played in just under 12 minutes against Portland. He managed nine points, two blocks, one steal and one rebound in that span. Limited minutes for a guy who was not officially on the Summer League roster until yesterday. Expect more of Duren in the coming games.
It is just Summer League. Detroit’s performance in this single game is far from indicative of the team’s prospects for the future. More important than the victory, this game showed areas where each player worked on improving, and what areas still need work.
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(Featured Image Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports)