Since the new year began, the Detroit Pistons have been much improved. In a two-week span, they’ve defeated two contending teams, two rebuilding squads, and, entering Friday, a team that was in the driver’s seat in the Eastern Conference play-in tournament race.
The Pistons (10-31) led the Toronto Raptors for nearly the full 48 minutes, beating them at Little Caesars Arena, 103-87. It was their biggest margin of victory this season and their fifth win in eight games — doubling their win total entering the 2022 calendar year.
Trey Lyles was one of Detroit’s leaders in minutes Friday, as Isaiah Stewart battled foul trouble. Lyles delivered one of his best performances of the season, leading the Pistons with 21 points and grabbing seven rebounds. Hamidou Diallo scored 18 points, 10 of which came from dunks, and Cade Cunningham added 18 points, seven rebounds and five assists. Pascal Siakam (24 points, 11 rebounds) and Fred VanVleet (23 points, 10 assists) led Toronto.
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The Pistons led by double-digits for most of the second half despite struggling from outside. Detroit made just eight of its 27 3-point attempts, but made up for it by shooting 46.9% overall, including 50 points in the paint.
A 3-pointer by Josh Jackson extended Detroit’s lead to 20, 86-66, at the beginning of the fourth quarter. The Raptors managed to make things interesting toward the end, using a 17-5 run to cut the deficit to eight points on VanVleet’s 3 with 3:39 remaining. But a dagger layup by Hayes and 3 by Cunningham sealed the win.
Hayes attacks, has all-around game
Hayes takes very few of his shots at the rim. Per Cleaning The Glass, only 20% of his shots this season have been in that area, one of the lowest rates among guards. But Hayes has been more aggressive attacking the rim this week, and it paid off for him.
He made two of his five shot attempts, and they were both in the paint. He found an open lane for a rare dunk in the third quarter, and helped ice the game at the end by splitting a double-team and finishing a layup though the Raptors’ defense. Hayes also generated an dunk for Jackson by attacking the lane, hitting him while cutting after collapsing the defense.
Hayes’ other point came after he drew contact while going to the basket in transition. There’s a balance Hayes can find between taking his preferred shot, the short-midrange floater, and taking the extra step and challenging the defense. The coaching staff challenged him to do it more often going into the season, and he saw the results that come from doing so Friday.
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