New York — When Killian Hayes touched the ball for the first time on Wednesday night, he didn’t look to dribble past his defender. He didn’t pump fake, nor did he look to pass the ball back to one of his teammates.
The third-year Pistons guard shot without hesitation and drained a 3-pointer right over the outstretched arm of Jayson Tatum. As the first quarter waned, Hayes used his handle to create space between himself and Tatum and nailed a mid-range shot for his second basket of the night.
These two plays stand out because they show a glimpse of Hayes’ offensive assertiveness returning for the first time since the preseason. Pistons coach Dwane Casey praised Hayes’ performance after Wednesday’s 128-112 loss to the Celtics.
“We got an abundance of patience with him. He did a heck of a job tonight,” Casey said. “I thought his group came in in the second quarter and got us into the game, and he was the leader of that group.
“Killian’s a talented young man. He’s just gotta play. Don’t think. Just play basketball. He gets a lot of criticism for I don’t know why. He’s a young player in our league and he’s part of our development process.”
Hayes led the Pistons’ bench with 16 points and two rebounds on 7-of-12 from the field. His five misses were good misses, if you believe in such a thing. They were aggressive, whether he either tried to make a floater or layup at the rim or shoot from the perimeter. Hayes said the game served as a reminder of how he needs to play going forward.
“I was making shots. It felt good seeing them go in,” Hayes told The Detroit News after the game. “There’s no turning back from now. It’s what I needed. Now, on to the next game. We know what we need to do as a team, and I know what we have to do to help the team win. It just felt good seeing the shot go in tonight.”
Hayes is averaging 4.0 points, 1.3 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game, but he has the backing from his coach to continue to develop at his own pace. It’s unclear if this type of confidence will continue or if he will revert back to the passive play he showed for the first three weeks of the season.
The Pistons will be better off if he continues to exhibit that type of play off the bench.
“Some nights, you’re going to have nights like that,” Casey said. “You’re going to have tough nights, and tonight, he showed how he can play when he’s aggressive, confident and not listening to the noise.”
Pistons at Knicks
Tipoff: 7:30 Friday, Madison Square Garden, New York
Outlook: The Pistons will try to break their six-game road losing streak, against the Knicks (5-6). This is the second meeting between the two teams. The Knicks won the last meeting, 130-106, led by 20 points from Immanuel Quickley.