Detroit Pistons’ late-season urgency will pay off next year, Dwane Casey says. Here’s why

Detroit Free Press

Killian Hayes’ first and second-half splits tell the story of the type of night he — and the rest of the Detroit Pistons — had Saturday in Charlotte.

At halftime, the rookie point guard had two points on 1-for-4 shooting, one assist and one rebound. In the second half, he tallied eight points, five assists, five rebounds, two steals and a block while making three of his seven shots, including two 3-pointers.

Hayes, who is now nearly a month removed from returning to the rotation after a three-month absence, wasn’t pleased with their performance after the game.

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“We came out, I thought to myself, bullshitting in the first half,” Hayes, who finished with 10 points, six assists, six rebounds, two steals and a block during the Pistons’ 107-94 loss to the Hornets, said. “I wasn’t happy, the coach wasn’t happy. We knew in the second half we had to step forward and compete in the game. We fought until the very end, they got the win and made some tough shots but we need to play that way the whole game.”

It was the type of game that Hayes, and his young teammates, can grow from and will be better for this time next year, coach Dwane Casey said after the loss. With only eight games remaining and the playoffs out of reach, Casey said the Pistons (19-45) are playing with urgency — an urgency that will help them down the road.

“We want to build winning habits,” Casey said after the loss. “It’s not like a light switch, where we can flip it on, flip it off. If we don’t establish that now, we’re not going to start the season next year or the year after that with the light switch off and then just flick a button and it comes on. You develop those winning habits now to improve for next year. Not for making it out of this game, with all of our guys out, but you develop those winning habits. And he did that in the second half, but we got to start the game at a better clip.”

The Pistons got off to a cold start against the Hornets (31-32, eighth in the East). Like Hayes, they were much better in the final two quarters. Detroit reduced a 21-point deficit to three early in the fourth quarter, but it wasn’t enough.

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Despite being very shorthanded — they were without eight players, including starters Jerami Grant and Mason Plumlee, due to injuries and rest — they were able to muster a 30-12 run in the third and fourth quarters to cut the deficit to three, 83-80, after trailing by 21 points at the 6:30 mark of the third quarter.

The Pistons got big performances from several of their young players. Two-way guard Frank Jackson led the Pistons with 25 points and six 3s, both season-highs. Saddiq Bey tallied 22 points, seven rebounds, five assists, two blocks, two steals and five 3s.

They also got solid contributions from Tyler Cook (12 points, seven rebounds), Saben Lee (seven assists off the bench), Sekou Doumbouya (nine points, five rebounds) and Isaiah Stewart (nine points, three blocks), who battled foul trouble.

Hayes’ bounce-back performance in the second half helped to rejuvenate the team. At halftime, Hayes and Casey both agreed he needed to play better. But Hayes said he’s more comfortable compared to the first seven games of the season, and it’s noticeable. Despite his first-half struggles, he was still able to put together one of his better performances.

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“He didn’t play well at all in the first half,” Casey said. “We talked about it at halftime. He picked it up and I thought he played solid in the second half. I thought he was really cerebral in the fourth quarter. Made some kickouts, made some plays and really did a good job in the fourth quarter. This experience is going to pay off. It’s not paying off now, it hurts, it’s painful taking these losses. But still, they’re going to bear fruit this time next year.”

Contact Omari Sankofa II at Follow him on Twitter @omarisankofa. Read more on the Detroit Pistons and sign up for our Pistons newsletter.

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