The Detroit Pistons can be tough to watch these days, but there’s always something to watch.
Facing the Chicago Bulls on Sunday, the Pistons did what they needed to do: lose the game, falling 108-96.
However, there was more to this one than the final tally. We’ve seen different times throughout the season where different members of Detroit’s stable of youngsters makes strides and has their moments.
Saddiq Bey did it early in the season and Isaiah Stewart followed. Saben Lee had his time midseason, while Frank Jackson had himself a torrid stretch last month. Sekou Doumbouya last two weeks were great, and against Chicago it was Killian Hayes’ turn.
The rookie scored a career-high 21 points, grabbing 7 rebounds while dishing out 8 assists. It was easily the most aggressive we’ve seen Hayes this season.
He was hunting for his shot, taking perimeter jumpers with confidence (3/6 on triples) while hitting plenty of those funky floaters in the lane. You’d like to see him get to the rim and finish more, or at least draw some fouls, but he still found ways to score and that was a positive.
His probing style has proven to be an effective way to hunt for shots for his teammates, but without the threat to score it’s not sustainable over the course of a full game. Hayes has learned that, it seems, because tonight he was in attack mode—which we haven’t really seen.
He picked up the slack after Jackson left the game with an injury in the first half, and spent all of his time in the second half sharing the backcourt with Lee and Deividas Sirvydis… which lends itself to looking to score.
Hayes was far from perfect, turning it over 7 times, but this was the kind of game that shows Hayes can score the ball when his jumper is falling. With a summer of working on his game and body, maybe it’s a preview of what’s coming?
The game itself was never really close. Detroit trailed by 15+ points most of the night, rallying late to cut it to 104-94.
Stewart, who seemed to have hit a wall recently, rebounded nicely against a formidable foe in Chicago’s Nikola Vucevic. The rookie did a little bit of everything, scoring 20 points and grabbing 7 rebounds to go with 3 assists and 2 blocks.
It was nice to see him scoring well in the paint, but he was also aggressive from downtown in hitting 3 of his 7 triples. That shot has been inconsistent as of late, but he’s going to need to get comfortable taking 3-4 a night—especially if he’s sharing a front court with Evan Mobley next season.
Three others stuck out to me: Tyler Cook, Bey, and Lee.
I’m not sure Cook will be around next season, but there’s a spot on somebody’s bench for this dude. He is what he is — energy and muscle — but he’s fun to watch. He dunks the crap out of the ball and the energy picks up when he’s out there. You can just see it after one of those jams.
It was a funky night for Lee, sharing the floor almost exclusively with Hayes. He was productive with 13 points and 7 assists, finishing a fun alley-oop off a lob from Killian early on. I think he can be a scorer if he figures out some type of pull-up jumper. That seems to be his main hesitancy when it comes to looking to score vs distribute.
Bey, as boring as it sounds, was Bey. He struggled off the dribble, but he hit his jumpers. He scored 19 points and grabbed 7 rebounds, hitting 5 triples to add to his NBA rookie record of games with 5+ makes from deep.
The only real bummer tonight was Sekou. After putting together his best stretch of games since last season’s miniature hot streak, the big minutes appeared to catch up with him. He wasn’t as aggressive, making just 1 of his 4 shots for 5 points, but Bulls rookie Patrick Williams probably had something to do with that.
His one make, though, was a nice combo move that shook the daylights out of Lauri Markkanen.
The end of the road is near… luckily this team is giving us reason(s) to keep watching.