Pistons’ Killian Hayes could find opportunities in three-guard lineup with Cunningham, Ivey

Detroit News

Detroit — Pistons coach Dwane Casey utilized Killian Hayes in a few unique three-guard lineups during the second half of the Pistons’ preseason loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Hayes played alongside Cade Cunningham and Cory Joseph, with Saddiq Bey and Isaiah Stewart in the frontcourt. A notable play occurred during that stretch, when Cunningham drew three defenders and dished the ball to Hayes, who quickly swung the ball to Bey for a wide-open 3-pointer. Bey decided to make one more pass back to Hayes for an easier attempt from beyond the arc.

That sequence is an example of the possibilities that may arise from having three playmakers on the floor. Casey used a combination of Cunningham-Hayes-Joseph on Tuesday, but he could use Ivey’s quickness in that sort of rotation as well.

Hayes appeared confident throughout the night and finished with a game-high 20 points on 8-of-13 shooting from the field, including 4-of-6 from 3, along with seven assists. It was Hayes’ most complete preseason game thus far, leaving his coach impressed.

“He doesn’t get too high or low, and that’s good,” Casey said after practice Wednesday. “I think he has to play with that edge on his shoulder — that fire. I was really proud of the way he played (on Tuesday) with confidence. When nobody really had anything else going, he kind of took it under his wing and took over, which is great. We need that.

“Normally, if he’s in the three-guard lineup, they’re going to put their best player on Cade, so that’ll mean there’s going to be somebody available ready to attack, and he did that (on Tuesday), which was good.”

With most of the attention on Cunningham, coupled with what Ivey brings to the table by attacking the basket and attracting multiple defenders, Killian could find himself having more opportunities to be aggressive on the offensive end. And if he’s knocking down his perimeter shots, that will be a bonus for a Pistons team that desperately needed a boost in 3-point shooting.

Hayes, who made 26.3% of his 3-pointers last season, said working on his 3-point shot will benefit the team and present his teammates with more opportunities.

“If you can score 3s, guys are going to guard you closer and then it opens up the lane way more for myself and for everybody else,” Hayes said. “Just keep working on it. Keep shooting it with confidence.”

Casey envisions playing smaller lineups throughout the season, and it may happen more often early on, as Marvin Bagley III recovers from his sprained MCL and bone bruise in his right knee.

“We definitely will,” Casey said. “It could be another guy in there with Saddiq (Bey) at the (power-forward spot), so that’s the good thing with the flexibility that we have. I liked it.”

One thing Casey didn’t like was the team’s turnovers against the Thunder in the second half, noting that most of them were a result of Bey, Ivey and Cunningham trying to penetrate and split through gaps that quickly closed.

The Thunder forced the Pistons into 15 turnovers on Tuesday, their lowest total of the season, but a flurry of early giveaways in the third quarter put the game out of reach.

Despite the turnover rate, the Pistons’ three-guard lineup of their most talented playmakers is something to keep an eye on. It’s a group that Hayes believes he can thrive in.

“(Ivey) can shoot. Cade can shoot. I can shoot, and we’re all aggressive, unselfish players so it’ll definitely work,” Hayes said.

Kevin Knox, Bojan Bogdanovic available against Grizzlies; Hayes and five other Pistons out

Pistons forward Kevin Knox is available for Thursday’s preseason finale against the Grizzlies, according to a team spokesperson. It’s his first time being active for an exhibition due to a right gastroc strain.

Bojan Bogdanovic is also active after missing Tuesday’s game due to a sprained right calf.

Killian Hayes will not play due to an undisclosed reason. He joins Hamidou Diallo (quad), Isaiah Livers (hip), Nerlens Noel (reconditioning/plantar fasciitis), Alec Burks and Marvin Bagley as Pistons players on the unavailable list.

mcurtis@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @MikeACurtis2

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