It was April 1, but the injury report for the Detroit Pistons‘ road game against the Oklahoma City Thunder was no prank.
A total of 17 players for both teams combined sat out with injuries. The Pistons were without Jerami Grant, Marvin Bagley III, Cory Joseph, Kelly Olynyk (rest), Hamidou Diallo, Luka Garza and Chris Smith, and the Thunder were down virtually all of their key players. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Josh Giddey and Lu Dort all missed the game along with several of their role players.
It was clear that both teams are in prime position for the No. 1 pick in the 2022 NBA draft lottery. And despite missing seven players and sitting Cade Cunningham, Saddiq Bey and Isaiah Stewart after the first quarter, the Pistons (22-56) prevailed, 110-101, to win their second straight game.
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Killian Hayes had the best all-around game of his two-season career, finishing with a career-high 26 points, eight assists, seven rebounds and five steals. Frank Jackson scored 26 points, and Isaiah Livers finished with career highs in points (17) and rebounds (11) for his first double-double. Saben Lee also had a double-double with 11 points and 12 assists, and Jamorko Pickett had 13 points and made four 3-pointers.
Detroit led by as many as 22 points and took control of the game with a 17-0 run in the second quarter extending their lead to double digits. Following the win, the Pistons own the NBA’s third-worst record, separated from the Thunder in the league standings by half a game.
Hayes has career night
Hayes has been a reluctant shooter for most of the season, entering Friday averaging 6.6 shots per game, 10th on the roster among players who have appeared in at least 10 games. He’s typically been more comfortable dictating the pace of the game than taking matters into his own hands.
Friday was different. The Pistons were without several of their best offensive options, especially after Cunningham and Bey sat early. It was the perfect environment for Hayes to embrace being a top offensive option as he took a career-high 25 shots, of which he knocked down 12 (also a career-high).
Continuing a recent trend, Hayes looked comfortable attacking the lane and finishing through traffic. He was 2-for-9 from 3, but 10-for-16 inside the arc. He’s continuing to play with more confidence as the season winds down.
Livers delivers during first NBA start
A concussion recently cost Livers four consecutive games. He didn’t miss a beat returning Thursday, though, knocking down three of four 3-point attempts and playing the entire fourth quarter of Detroit’s 102-94 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers.
Livers picked up where he left off with his first start of the season Friday. He put together another strong two-way performance, finishing with the first double-double of his career and setting career highs in points and rebounds.
Livers’ outside shooting and high basketball IQ made him an appealing prospect in last year’s draft. He missed most of this season as he recovered from a stress fracture in his right foot, but he’s finding his groove late in the season.
“Really happy for the young man,” Pistons coach Dwane Casey said before Friday’s game. “He’s a guy that I know Troy (Weaver) had his eye on throughout the entire draft last year. We got him. We understood the fact that he was inured and had surgery. He worked his butt off. It’s good to see him coming around. On top of that, he’s such a great young man. Has a pure heart, plays with a pure heart, roots for his teammates, is happy for their success. That’s why they’re pulling for him while he’s out there.”
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