MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Detroit Pistons had a strong start to preseason last week, beating the San Antonio Spurs by 10 points at home.
The Pistons couldn’t maintain it, falling to the Memphis Grizzlies on the road on Monday, 127-92. Killian Hayes made his preseason debut after missing the exhibition opener with a left ankle sprain, but Detroit struggled to move the ball and had a poor outside shooting night.
Ja Morant paced the Grizzlies with 24 points and five rebounds, and Jaren Jackson Jr. added 20 points and eight rebounds. Jerami Grant scored 13 points, and Frank Jackson, who started alongside Hayes, added 12. Hamidou Diallo and Josh Jackson each added 11 points off of the bench.
Saddiq Bey missed the second half of the game with a left ankle sprain.
Killian Hayes returns, starts
Hayes was one of Detroit’s buzziest players during training camp. The coaching staff praised his energy and aggressiveness after a rocky rookie season. But the Pistons had to wait longer than expected to see if his camp performances would translate to live action. He was a late scratch for their preseason opener last Wednesday, as he tweaked his ankle the day before.
He made his debut on Monday, and it wasn’t the start to his sophomore season he wanted. Hayes was whistled for a foul on the first possession of the game after lightly pushing Ja Morant, who darted toward a screen. Hayes was whistled for his second foul a minute and seven seconds later. Morant forced up a jump shot while Hayes trailed him on a screen, and there was just enough contact for the refs to blow the whistle.
Hayes sat the rest of the first quarter, but returned to open the second quarter. Overall, it was a shaky return with some bright spots. He knocked down a catch-and-shoot 3 in the third quarter for the first bucket of the night, and completed a 3-point play in the fourth. He also did a respectable job defensively against Morant despite the All-Star shooting 10-for-13 from the floor. It was a tough matchup, as Morant is one of the quickest guards in the league and has one of the NBA’s best screeners, Steven Adams, creating space.
With two more preseason games, Hayes still has time to get into a rhythm before the regular season begins.
Pistons struggle after strong opener
Casey has touted Detroit’s second-unit depth as a strength, and their second unit was strong during Wednesday’s 115-105 win against the Spurs. It could take some time for the starting lineup to become cohesive, but the experience of Cory Joseph, Trey Lyles and Kelly Olynyk is a plus.
Unfortunately, the Pistons didn’t look familiar with each other Monday. They struggled to move the ball, committing 23 turnovers opposite just 17 assists. They also struggled to shoot, hitting seven of their 28 3-point attempts. The Grizzlies led by 24 points at halftime, and Detroit never got within striking distance afterward.
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