Detroit Pistons’ Sekou Doumbouya goes off in preseason victory vs. New York Knicks

Detroit Free Press

Omari Sankofa II
| Detroit Free Press

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Sunday was an improvement for the Detroit Pistons.

They avenged their preseason loss on Friday, defeating the Knicks behind a strong performance from Sekou Doumbouya. The second-year forward finished with 23 points, five rebounds, two blocks and a steal on 8 of 11 overall shooting and 2-for-4 shooting from behind the arc. 

It’s unwise to read too far into preseason games, but there were some encouraging signs. The Pistons shot better, saw stronger outings from Doumbouya, Josh Jackson and several other players and gave head coach Dwane Casey more to consider as he continues to figure out his rotation. 

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Here’s what we saw: 

Doumbouya turns it around

After a quiet preseason opener, Doumbouya was a completely different player on Sunday. He was disruptive on defense, made timely cut after timely cut on offense and was decisive when the ball was in his hands. 

One highlight sequence saw him steal a post entry pass, lead the fast break and finish the layup after dumping the ball off to Rose, who gave it right back. He didn’t lead many fast breaks last season, but it’s something Casey said he wanted him to be able to do. He played most of the fourth quarter and was a key reason the Pistons were able to hold onto the win.

Doumbouya was Detroit’s best player, and could force himself into a bigger role in the rotation if he continues to impact the game defensively the way he did Sunday.

Killian Hayes shows two-way promise

Hayes showed small flashes of the player he can become during his preseason debut, but it was clear that it’ll take time for him to adjust to the speed and size of the NBA. He made some nice reads, but also forced some of his shots, mistimed some of his passes and wore down on defense over the course of the game. 

Casey had a simple message to him after Friday’s game — relax and play.

It appeared that Hayes heeded his advice Sunday. His shooting line didn’t improve, but he continued reading the floor well and creating good looks for his teammates, and only turned the ball over one time after coughing it up seven times Friday. 

Hayes is good at finding open shooters after he gets downhill. He keeps his head up and punishes defenses when they collapse on the weak side. He only finished with four assists, but it was partially because the Pistons slumped from 3 after a hot start. 

His biggest improvement might’ve been on defense. Standing 6-foot-5 with a 6-8 wingspan, he has great size for his position and was more engaged on that end of the floor. An R.J. Barrett layup attempt midway through the second was unsuccessful because of a highlight play from Hayes. Barrett had a clear path to the rim, and Hayes used both of his hands to knock the ball loose and prevent him from finishing. Casey has praised Hayes’ defensive effort since the week of the draft, and we got to see some of that. 

He still has to find his rhythm as a scorer, though. He shot 2-11 overall, and many of those shots were step-back and side-step attempts from 3 and midrange. His two makes were both in-rhythm — a catch-and-shoot 3 and strong drive to the rim and finish through contact. It’s only been two preseason games, but it’s something to keep an eye on.

Pistons start strong after slow preseason debut

Both the Pistons and Knicks looked shaky during their preseason debuts on Friday. It wasn’t too surprising — it was the first time both teams saw the floor since March 11. But New York recovered after a bad offensive start, shooting 11-for-17 in the second and winning the game, 90-84. Detroit didn’t find any semblance of flow on offense until the final six minutes, when Svi Mykhailiuk and Saddiq Bey helped lead a small comeback.

The Pistons got off to a significantly better start Sunday. The starting lineup moved the ball and did a better job generating open looks from 3, and the bench kept the momentum going. In the first quarter, they shot 11 of 20 overall, 5 of 9 from 3, dished eight assists opposite three turnovers and entered the second quarter with a 31-20 lead. 

Cleaning up the turnovers was a point of emphasis after Friday, Dwane Casey said before the game. They largely succeeded early, but finished the night with 23 assists and 19 turnovers.  

Casey sticks with his rotation 

The Pistons rolled with the same starting five as Friday — Hayes, Delon Wright, Jerami Grant, Blake Griffin and Mason Plumlee. He also followed a similar substitution pattern, with a few changes. Derrick Rose and Doumbouya were the first players to check in, and were followed by Jackson, and then Svi Mykhailiuk and Jahlil Okafor. It was the same first five players to check in on Friday, but in a different order. 

Also like Friday, Casey stuck with a 12-man rotation through the first three quarters before expanding in the fourth. Wayne Ellington and Saddiq Bey played in the second quarter, and Isaiah Stewart, Rodney McGruder, Saben Lee, Anthony Lamb and Louis King checked in during the fourth. Lamb, a training camp addition, and King, a two-way player, made their preseason debuts. 

It’s likely that Casey will continue tinkering — especially with a different core of players carrying the Pistons the second time around. After sticking with a similar rotation through two preseason games, we’ll see if he makes more extensive changes through the next two games. 

Contact Omari Sankofa II at Follow him on Twitter @omarisankofa.

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