Pistons’ Killian Hayes on career-high 21 points: ‘I’m going with the flow’
Killian Hayes finished with career highs in points (21) and rebounds (seven) and added eight assists in loss to Chicago on Sunday.
The Detroit News
Detroit — On one hand, the final week of the season can’t be done soon enough for the Pistons. It’s become a slog toward the final three games.
Before they get there, the Pistons can find some small gems in the remainder of the season. It could be something completely unexpected, such as a good shooting night from Deividas Sirvydis, which happened on Saturday night.
It could also be a big scoring night from rookie Killian Hayes, putting together an impressive offensive arsenal, all in one game.
Every little bit helps, but Hayes’ performance was one of the big standouts, even though it came in a 108-96 loss to the Chicago Bulls on Sunday night at Little Caesars Arena. It’s the second straight loss in the Pistons’ dwindling season, which has three games remaining — all at home this week.
Hayes finished with career highs in points (21) and rebounds (seven) and added eight assists, in his best all-around performance of the season. For most of the time since his return from a hip injury, Hayes has been tentative in looking for his shot.
He broke out with more assertiveness, both in the paint and beyond the arc, going 9 of 17 from the field and 3 of 6 on 3-pointers. It was his most complete game, in getting his teammates involved and finding a balance with his own offense.
Part of the adjustment for Hayes has been playing both guard positions — starting with handling as the point guard and then scoring as the shooting guard in tandem with Saben Lee.
“I love it. That’s the second time I’ve played at the same time with Saben. Being off the ball, it’s more fun,” Hayes said. “When you always have the ball in your hands, the defense can read what you’re going to do; I like playing combo (guard).”
Add some good 3-point shooting from center Isaiah Stewart, who went 3 of 7 from beyond the arc, and finished with 19 points and seven rebounds, and the Pistons (20-49) had some things to be excited about, even in a loss.
They’re looking to see signs of improvement, and one could be that the four leading scorers all were rookies, with Saddiq Bey chipping in 20 points and seven rebounds and Lee 13 points and seven assists.
“It’s development. Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades,” coach Dwane Casey said. “The development is coming, and at some point, it’s going to have to translate into (wins).”
The Bulls (29-39) jumped to an 18-8 lead midway through the first quarter with a 9-2 run that was fueled by Nikola Vucevic (29 points and 16 rebounds), who had six points during the spurt. He finished with 10 points in the quarter and Zach LaVine added 30 points and six assists.
The Pistons already were shorthanded with most of their veterans out for the game, and then added Frank Jackson to the list in the first half, leaving them with just eight players suited up to play.
Lee was encouraged by the play of the rookies, who kept playing hard, even with a double-digit deficit.
“It shows what this young group is about,” Lee said. “That’s our character and how we want to continue to play.”
Bey had three 3-pointers in the final six minutes of the second quarter, but the Pistons trailed, 57-39, at halftime. Hayes got going early in the third quarter with back-to-back baskets, but the Bulls kept pouring it on, with LaVine and Vucevic combining to score 13 of 16 points during the middle stretch.
The Pistons closed the deficit to 10 points, the closest they had been in the second half, in the final two minutes, but LaVine hit a fadeaway to put the game out of reach.
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