Pistons observations: Ivey's homecoming, Cunningham's strong fourth quarter, Pacers' block party
Indianapolis — The Pistons lost their second consecutive game in a 124-115 loss to the Pacers on Saturday night at Gainbridge Fieldhouse.
Detroit came out the gates swinging in the first quarter with 35 points and built a 14-point lead, but the Pacers countered with their defensive intensity and timely shot-making. Bennedict Mathurin, the No. 6 overall pick in this year's draft, led Indiana with 27 points and seven rebounds off the bench.
Here are five observations from the Pistons' loss to the Pacers, ahead of Tuesday's game at Washington:
▶ Ivey's homecoming: In an arena scattered with fans wearing Jaden Ivey jerseys, the former Purdue star and Indiana native received a warm welcome for his first game back as a pro. The Pistons rookie signed jerseys before the game, and with his mom, Niele Ivey, in attendance, he recorded his first career double-double. After almost reaching the feat the night before against New York with points and assists, Ivey crashed the glass and compiled a final stat line of 17 points, 11 rebounds and five assists.
▶ Cunningham starts, finishes strong: Cunningham appeared if he was going to have a big scoring night after knocking down his first two 3-pointers of the game, but the Pistons star picked up two early fouls and he was sidelined for the remainder of the first quarter. It threw his rhythm off slightly, but as soon as the fourth quarter began, he picked up where he left off to begin the game. The Pistons were led Saturday by an offensive-minded Cunningham, who finished with a team-high 24 points, four rebounds and four assists.
▶ More highlights for Duren: Jalen Duren, who was limited by foul trouble in Friday's loss to the Knicks played 18 minutes off the bench and did not commit a single foul, for the second time this season. The rookie center only finished with six points, three rebounds and two blocks. However, each basket and both blocks were highlight-worthy. Ivey tossed a lob up to Duren for one of his two-handed slams. On another occasion, the 18-year-old phenom got in position for an emphatic putback slam after a missed 3-pointer by Cory Joseph.
Duren's most impressive play was on the defensive end as he rejected a layup attempt by Terry Taylor that ricocheted off the backboard with force. If Duren can continue to capitalize on his opportunities without fouling, he will surely find a way to increase his playing time.
▶ Pacers' block party: Speaking of blocks, the Pacers had 15 blocks on Saturday night. It made the Pistons think twice about attacking the paint, often using a series of pump fakes before going up with their shot attempts. After the game, Ivey said despite Indiana's dominant defensive presence in the paint, it didn't discourage him from looking to score inside. This was evident when he challenged Pacers forward Jalen Smith at the rim with a one-handed dunk attempt, but Smith met Ivey at the rim and denied his slam.
▶ Pistons' defensive struggles: Through three games, the Pistons have allowed their opponents to score a combined 336 points. That's an average of 121 points per game, which isn't going to get it done in this league. The Pistons promised an emphasis on defense this season, but it's not materializing just yet. The Pacers' bench scored 60 points Saturday, led by Bennedict Mathurin's 27 points and the Knicks' bench scored 64 points on Friday, led by 20 from Immanuel Quickley. The Pistons will have one opportunity to practice and address their defensive struggles before they face the Wizards on Tuesday.