This could go down as The Killian Hayes game. The latest in a string of strong, confident performances from the Detroit Pistons’ third-year guard was not only the best game of Killian’s career, it featured him taking control of the game late, hitting huge shots in overtime and playing strong defense against the NBA’s most dangerous scorer in Luka Doncic.
And because the Pistons-Mavs contest was the only game of the schedule, the entire NBA world was watching.
Hayes finished with 22 points, eight assists, four rebounds and just two turnovers. More importantly, Hayes hit 10 of his 13 shots including a pair of clutch 3s in overtime to seal the victory for the Pistons. He scored eight of Detroit’s 14 points in the overtime period.
As he plays with this level of confidence, continues hitting his perimeter shots, and continues to slice his way into quality looks from the mid-range, it’s time to start thinking this is all for real.
A player who looked hopeless on offense for nearly his entire career, who looked at risk of falling out of Detroit’s rotation in the season’s first seven games might have actually done it. Flipped the switch, turned the corner, saw the light. Whatever you want to call it, all that matters is Hayes is starting to look like a quality NBA player who a team would want out there closing games in crunch time.
But it almost wasn’t meant to be because the young Pistons almost choked yet another game away.
A Hayes pull-up jumper put Detroit up nine with 2:52 left to go. But then Detroit started doubling Mavericks’ star Doncic, and the 6-foot-7 forward was easily able to navigate the defensive pressure and find the open man. The Mavs scored on four of the team’s final five possessions in regulation, and Luka was always heavily involved.
Worse, the Pistons went away from what was working on offense and started making poor decisions. Jaden Ivey took an ill-advised 32-footer, Alec Burks, who replaced Ivey after the poor shot, took a 14-footer early in the shot clock that hit the front of the rim, poor execution led to a desperate Isaiah Stewart 3-pointer that barley caught rim and suddenly the game was tied at 117. If there was enough time on the game clock, the Mavs probably score on a final possession and take the game in regulation.
But overtime was Killian time. He traded baskets with Luka, and he started to draw so much attention he was able to create open looks for teammates.
It was everything you wanted out of a Killian Hayes-led offense when the Pistons made the guard the seventh overall pick three years ago. It took a while. There were a few ups, and plenty of downs, but tonight and for the past several weeks, he’s looked like a new man.
This version of Hayes is for real.