Detroit Pistons’ preseason loss mired by Marvin Bagley III injury, sloppy third quarter

Detroit Free Press

Killian Hayes appears to enjoy playing the Oklahoma City Thunder. He scored a career-high 26 points and tallied eight assists, seven rebounds and five steals against them on April 1 last season.

He was once again the Detroit Pistons’ best all-around player against the Thunder on Tuesday. Unfortunately, much of the rest of the roster struggled to hit shots.

The Thunder defeated the Pistons at Little Caesars Arena, 115-99, to keep Detroit winless in preseason. The Pistons’ final preseason game is Thursday at home against the Memphis Grizzlies.

Hayes finished with a team-high 20 points on 8-for-13 overall shooting and 4-for-6 shooting for 3, and had seven assists. Saddiq Bey scored 19 points, and Jalen Duren grabbed a team-high 10 rebounds. Cade Cunningham (10 points, 3-for-13 overall shooting, eight rebounds) and Jaden Ivey (11 points, 4-for-12 shooting) both had off nights.

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Marvin Bagley III left the game early in the first quarter with a right knee injury. It’s currently unclear how severe the injury is.

Bagley’s injury creates opportunity for Duren

The Pistons were already shorthanded on Tuesday. Hamidou Diallo (quad), Nerlens Noel (plantar fasciitis) and Kevin Knox (right gastroc strain) have all yet to make their preseason debuts, and Isaiah Livers, who played in the first two exhibitions, missed the game with a hip injury.

Less than a minute into the game, Bagley slipped on the foot of Thunder forward Jalen Williams and bent his right knee at an awkward angle. He couldn’t put pressure on his right leg, and needed help from his teammates to walk to the tunnel.

It isn’t yet known how much time Bagley will miss, but his injury creates a pathway for Duren to receive more playing time. The rookie played seven first-quarter minutes before picking up his third foul, which caused him to miss the rest of the opening quarter and the entire second quarter before starting the third. 

Despite the foul trouble, Duren was productive. Seven of his 10 rebounds were offensive. Both of his field goals were dunks — a wide open one off of a high-low pass from Isaiah Stewart, and a putback dunk off of a missed layup from Ivey. 

Hayes finds rhythm from 3

One of Hayes’ biggest priorities this offseason was tweaking his 3-point shot. His mechanics are cleaner, and his shot has more arc on it. Through Detroit’s first two preseason games, he was just 1-for-9 from 3. His offseason work finally began to show on Tuesday. 

Hayes was one of the few players on the roster who was able to consistently find the bottom of the net. He was Detroit’s best offensive player overall. He has played with more aggression and has made a point to get into the paint. He shot 4-for-7 inside the arc. Most of his miscues were at the line, as he uncharacteristically missed all three of his free-throw attempts. 

The Pistons need Hayes, a career 26.8% outside shooter, to consistently space the floor. Tuesday showed that he may be able to turn the corner during his third season. 

Turnovers hurt Pistons once again

Taking care of the ball has been one of Detroit’s main weaknesses during preseason. They committed 21 turnovers against the New York Knicks last Tuesday, and another 21 against the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday. After practice on Sunday, Dwane Casey said he wanted the Pistons to keep their turnovers under 14. 

Turnovers were still an issue against the Thunder. Detroit committed just five turnovers in the opening half, but had five in the first three minutes of the third quarter. It helped the Thunder find a rhythm, and the Pistons entered the fourth quarter with an eight-point deficit despite leading by three at halftime. 

Cunningham (four turnovers) and Ivey (three turnovers) were responsible for most of them. As a team, the Pistons had 15 total turnovers, but the loss showed how fast things can spiral when they cough away multiple possessions in a row.

Contact Omari Sankofa II at osankofa@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @omarisankofa.

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