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Pistons vs. Pacers preview: Killian Hayes looks to continue strong push at end of season

If the Pistons could pick any game to lose to end this season, it’s this one

Indiana Pacers v Detroit Pistons Photo by Chris Schwegler/NBAE via Getty Images

The Detroit Pistons appear solidly in the third spot among the league’s worst records, but if there was ever a game that it would be beneficial to lose, it’s today’s midday tilt against the Indiana Pacers. Courtesy of two consecutive wins, the Pistons are 22-56, two games back from the Orlando Magic and Houston Rockets who sport 20-58 marks at the bottom of the standings. The freefalling Pacers, losers of six in a row, are 25-53. A Pistons loss likely means they will finish with one of the four worst records in the league. A win and it means they could get leapfrogged by the Pacers in a quest for lottery balls.

Game Vitals

When: 5 p.m. ET
Where: Gainbridge Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, Indiana
Watch: Bally Sports Detroit Extra
Odds: Pistons +2.5 per Draft Kings

Analysis

Cade Cunningham is that dude. Pistons fans have known this. But, barring health issues for the team and especially Cade, Detroit’s play as of late means this is likely the last season Detroit can secure a high lottery pick thanks to boosted lottery odds. By this time next season, it seems more likely that the Pistons are a 34-win Knicks- or Kings-type team in a worst-case scenario and fighting amongst the play-in teams in a best-case scenario.

I know we’ve said it before recently, but this might be a good game for the Pistons to lose. The Pacers, as the Thunder before them, certainly won’t make that easy. During the team’s six-game losing streak, Indiana sports the second-worst net rating in the NBA at an eye-gouging minus-16. That’s better than only the G League Blazers. The Pistons in that same span have a plus-4 net rating. That is thanks almost exclusively to a pretty stout defense, which has given up just 106.2 points per 100 possessions, which is second-best in the NBA in that span.

The poster child for this defensive resurgence (aside from the mostly lackluster competition lately) has been Killian Hayes who is playing the best stretch of basketball in his career. His 26 points against the Thunder was double his season-high on the season and was a career-high in his injury-shortened two seasons in the league. He’s playing excellent defense (12 steals in his past three games), passing the ball as well as ever, and has a newfound confidence in his offense that is excellent to see as he heads into a pivotal offseason.

It’s not all Killian, however. The Pistons as a team are giving up the least amount of points in the paint in the NBA in the previous six games, giving up the fewest fastbreak points, the fourth-fewest second-chance points, ranking second in steals and eighth in blocks per game.

Say what you want about Dwane Casey’s X’s and O’s acumen or his occasional rotation decisions (and fans will always have something to say on those two topics), but you cannot question that he has these players in the right mindset nearly constantly and that they obviously like their coach and want to play hard for him.

I can’t remember the last time I was this excited about the future of a Detroit Pistons team. Now .... if they could lose to the Pacers, that’d be great.

Projected Lineups

Detroit Pistons (22-56)

Killian Hayes, Cade Cunningham, Saddiq Bey, Isaiah Livers, Isaiah Stewart

Indiana Pacers (25-53)

Tyrese Haliburton, Buddy Hield, Terry Taylor, Oshae Brissett, Goga Bitadze

Question of the Game

Who is winning the NCAA championship tomorrow?

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