Killian Hayes ties career-high in assists vs. Pelicans: ‘I tried to find the hot hand’

Detroit News

New Orleans — Killian Hayes saw the double-team from CJ McCollum and Jonas Valanciunas coming toward the top of the key and attacked it. However, before he got too close to the defensive pressure applied by the New Orleans Pelicans, Hayes dumped off a behind-the-back pass to Isaiah Stewart.

Since Valanciunas accepted the assignment of helping McCollum guard Hayes, Stewart was left open. And the shot was already in the air and through the net by the time Valanciunas closed out.

Hayes demonstrated an elite level of passing during Wednesday’s loss to the Pelicans, and this helper from the first quarter was an example of his gifted playmaking. The third-year Pistons guard produced his first double-double of the season with 17 points, six rebounds and a career-high 12 assists — a mark he also reached on Feb. 11 against the Charlotte Hornets.

Hayes didn’t mind his stat line when asked about his individual performance after the game, instead pointing to the team’s loss.

“When you lose, you lose,” Hayes said. “No matter how many points you have, I just did my job. I tried to find thee hot hand. (Stewart) was hitting shots. We lost (Bojan Bogdanovic) early, but guys were hitting shots.”

Over his last 11 games, Hayes is playing the best basketball of his career with averages of 12.7 points, 2.9 rebounds, 7.4 assists and 1.1 steals while shooting 42% (18-of-44) from beyond the 3-point line.

Hayes made another efficient pass during the second quarter of Wednesday’s game. After executing a pick-and-roll with Marvin Bagley, Hayes made a skip-pass to the corner, where Stewart was able to knock down his second 3-pointer of the night.

His efficient play was a key reason the Pistons nearly completed a 16-point comeback against the Pelicans, the top seed in the Western Conference.

“We can play anybody if we play connected and with intensity,” Hayes said. “We can be next to anybody in the league.”

Duren set to return to FedEx Forum

Jalen Duren spent one season at the University of Memphis, but it was a year with enough production to make him a lottery pick in this year’s NBA Draft.

The Pistons’ rookie center is set to return to the FedEx Forum when Detroit visits the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday.

Duren totaled 12 points, 8.1 rebounds and 2.1 blocks while earning American Athletic Conference Freshman of the Year during his lone season at Memphis in 2021-22.

“We had a lot of big wins in there. A lot of love in there. I had a great year,” Duren told The Detroit News. “Memphis is forever in my heart, but we’re trying to go in there and get the win. All that will be cool, but we can talk about that after the game.”

It’s strictly business for Duren, who is averaging 6.6 points and 6.8 rebounds on 61% shooting from the field in his first season in the league. Teams are paying attention to the scouting report, which likely details Duren’s physicality and he notices team’s guarding him differently as the season progresses.

“For me, I feel like a lot of teams try to send two bodies at me, especially when shot goes up,” Duren said. “For me, every game is starting to be real physical, but I’ve adapted to it real well. I expect it now. I’m just learning game by game and how to get around that.”

Against the Pelicans, Duren finished with 12 points and a career-high 13 rebounds. It was his third double-double of the season. The 19-year-old has led Detroit in rebounding 12 times and leads all rookies with 164 boards this season.

“Just doing whatever I can do to try and get the win. Try and attack the boards, just play with aggression. It was one of those games with a lot of energy, a lot of talking, a lot of adrenaline in the atmosphere so I just fed off that.”

Pistons at Grizzlies

Tipoff: 8, Friday, FedEx Forum, Memphis

TV/radio: BSD/97.1

Outlook: The Pistons (7-20) will face the Grizzlies (16-9) for the second time this season on Friday. Memphis defeated Detroit, 122-112, on Sunday, a game in which Ja Morant scored 21 of his 33 points in the third quarter. Isaiah Livers (right shoulder sprain) is listed on the Pistons’ injury report as doubtful after missing the last three games.

Twitter: @MikeACurtis2

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