ATLANTA — There’s never an opportune time for any team to lose its best player, but it was certainly poor timing for the Detroit Pistons on Monday when Jerami Grant was a late scratch with a left elbow infection.
The Pistons have struggled offensively to start the season, and the Atlanta Hawks — fresh off of an Eastern Conference Finals appearance — are one of the NBA’s best offensive teams. And they handled business, handing the Pistons a 122-104 loss at State Farm Arena.
Detroit (0-3) remained in striking distance for most of the first half, but a late 10-2 Hawks run at the end of the third quarter gave them a 16-point lead that allowed them to pull away for good.
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Kelly Olynyk, in his first start of the season, scored a season-high 21 points, grabbed six rebounds and dished four assists. Josh Jackson also received his first start, and had 18 points and six assists. Bey added 21 points and seven rebounds, Isaiah Stewart finished with 13 points, seven rebounds, five assists and four blocks, and Killian Hayes scored 12 as the Pistons shot 44% from the field but just 9-for-33 (27%) from the 3-point line.
Atlanta (2-1) shot 51% from the field and star guard Trae Young scored a game-high 32 points to go with nine assists. John Collins added 22 points (9-for-14 shooting) and seven rebounds.
With Jerami Grant out, Kelly Olynyk steps up
Grant’s injury forced Dwane Casey to make his first starting lineup change of the season. Olynyk seized the moment, setting the tone early with his shooting and passing. He scored 10 points each in the first two games of the season, but had 17 points on 7-for-10 shooting by halftime.
Olynyk went 0-for-6 from the 3-point line during his first two games, so it was a good omen when he got his first 3 to fall early in the first quarter. He knocked down a second one a few minutes later. He was also involved as a facilitator, finding Stewart for a lob midway through the second.
Olynyk wasn’t able to maintain his momentum in the second half, but during the first half he helped the shorthanded Pistons keep up with the Hawks’ high-powered offense.
Killian Hayes’ aggression leads to improved performance
Hayes is far from the only player responsible for the Pistons’ cold start to the season, but his early struggles have certainly been a factor. Through two games, he shot 1-for-11 from the floor and dished just five assists opposite three turnovers.
Monday was his most aggressive game of the season, by far. He matched his season shot total with 11 attempts, knocked down four of them, and went 2-for-3 from 3 in about 26 minutes of action. It wasn’t the best performance of his career, but he showed signs of life after a tentative start.
It was clear that Hayes was eager to establish a rhythm when he attacked the lane about 90 seconds into the first quarter. He missed the floater, but continued attacking. He made two elbow jumpers toward the end of the second quarter, and both of his made 3-pointers were open catch-and shoot attempts.
Curiously, Hayes didn’t appear in the fourth quarter for the third-straight game. Cory Joseph subbed in for him midway through the third, and Saben Lee entered the game for the first time for Joseph midway through the fourth quarter and got extended run with the other four starters.
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