Detroit — There were lobs all over the place.
Killian Hayes to Isaiah Stewart. Josh Jackson to Tyler Cook. Hayes to Stewart again. There were a few other that didn’t go, but it was a different look than the Pistons are used to showing with their veteran rosters.
With most of their veterans on the injury report, the Pistons leaned on their young core, which brought an efficient offense and a different style in the first quarter, when they built a 23-point lead on Monday night against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
It didn’t last, and the Pistons had to hold on in the final seconds, but they prevailed, 109-105, on Monday night at Little Caesars Arena.
Killian Hayes had career highs with 12 points and nine assists, including the feeds on four of their first five field goals. He was locked in and the offense was humming along, until the final minutes of the game, when the Cavaliers made a furious comeback attempt, but fell short.
“After we went on that run, we got in the huddle and I said to the guys: ‘This is how we should play all the time,’” said Josh Jackson, who had 16 points, five rebounds and four assists. “This is how we have fun and what we’re good at. We’re definitely a transition team and we’re still working on our halfcourt offense.”
Here are some observations from the victory:
► Hayes is the real deal. He’s working on his scoring still, but his midrange game is very much in order. He hit a couple of floaters and drove and pulled up a couple more times, getting his defender on his heels. It’s a decent development for Hayes, who isn’t known for his scoring, but getting 12 points is a big step for him. The passing was crisp, as it has been, and there were others that weren’t assists only because the defense had a good block or his teammate mishandled the ball. Hayes will be fine as the point guard and in his second start since his return, he looked to be right in place.
► Saddiq Bey was in his bag. Bey made four straight 3-pointers in the first quarter, bolstering the Pistons’ big run that gave them a 23-point lead. Bey had six 3-pointers and finished with 20 points. Bey cooled down after that outburst, but the Pistons had others who took up the slack in the later quarters, including Frank Jackson and Hayes in the fourth quarter.
“I knew he was a good shooter in college, but I didn’t know he was this kind of 3-point shooter when he got his feet set,” coach Dwane Casey said.
► The Pistons went with their young starting lineup. They had Hayes, Josh Jackson, Bey, Cook and Stewart in the first group. It’s the same lineup they had in Friday’s win over the Oklahoma City Thunder, except Sekou Doumbouya was out because of concussion protocol. Cook got his first career start and produced a career-best 12 points. Most of those were on dunks and alley-oops, but he took what the defense gave him and stuck to his game.
“It’s a lot of fun. I’m really excited about all our young guys,” Josh Jackson said. “Every guy here is a really hard worker — that’s the thing I’m most impressed about with our rookies.”
► Stewart was effective in the paint. He had his third straight double-double, with 18 points and 16 rebounds, and added three blocks and three steals in 31 minutes. He had a tough matchup with the Cavs’ Jarrett Allen, but held his own and dominated on the boards. Stewart is showing that he can handle the starting minutes and that he can excel against some tough competition.
► Frank Jackson had another outstanding game, going 7-of-14 from the field and 3-of-8 on 3-pointers, finishing with 20 points and four rebounds. He had the go-ahead basket with 29.6 seconds left, and he’s just finding himself in the fray at critical junctures of the game — and getting big baskets.