Killian Hayes’ big 3-pointer in OT helps Detroit Pistons best Hornets, 141-134

Detroit Free Press

The Detroit Pistons confirmed earlier this week that their blossoming second-year guard, Cade Cunningham, will miss the rest of the season. On Wednesday, Killian Hayes offered more confirmation that until Cunningham returns, the Pistons are in good hands.

A deep, stepback 3-pointer from Hayes with 1:11 left in overtime helped the Pistons defeat the Charlotte Hornets on the road, 141-134. It continued a stretch of strong play for Hayes, who finished with a season-high 25 points, eight assists, seven rebounds. That included a career-high five 3-pointers to help Detroit snap a three-game skid. Alec Burks led the Pistons with 27 points off of the bench.

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Detroit (8-22 overall) also got strong contributions from Bojan Bogdanovic (24 points), Isaiah Stewart (19 points, 11 rebounds), Kevin Knox II (17 points), Jaden Ivey (13 points) and Jalen Duren (seven points, career-high 19 rebounds). The Pistons led by 13 toward the end of the third quarter, but the Hornets used a 21-8 run to tie the game in the fourth quarter, which featured four lead changes and five ties before going into overtime.

In his first game since Nov. 16 because of an ankle injury, LaMelo Ball tallied 23 points and 11 assists for the Hornets. He fouled out with 29 seconds left in the fourth quarter. Kelle Oubre led all scorers with 28 points.

Hayes sets tone early with aggressive start, finish

We have more than a month of evidence suggesting that Hayes has truly turned a corner. From start to finish Wednesday, Hayes supplied big play after big play for Detroit.

Before Hayes clinched the win for Detroit with his deep 3, he got himself going with an uncharacteristically aggressive opening quarter. Hayes entered the game averaging 8.8 shot attempts this season. He ended the first quarter with 12 points — his career-high for points in a quarter — on 5-for-8 shooting. Foul trouble slowed Hayes down, as he picked up his third foul with 4:46 before halftime while attempting to draw a charge.

Hayes regained his momentum in the fourth quarter and overtime. He knocked down a 3-pointer with 3:04 to play in the fourth period to tie the game at 120, and then gave Detroit a 125-122 lead at the 1:41 mark. On the second possession, he initially missed a corner 3-pointer but made a second try after Stewart grabbed the offensive rebound and kicked it back out to him in the corner. His final 3-pointer of the night was the dagger 3 late in overtime, his third such 3-pointer in the month of December after he hit two in overtime in a 131-125 win over the Dallas Mavericks on Dec. 1.

Beyond the consistent playmaking, defense and his newfound willingness to call his own number, Hayes is developing a penchant for knocking down clutch shots as well. He has grown tremendously since Cade Cunningham played his final game Nov. 9, and has become one of the Pistons’ best success stories this season.

Stewart shows off improved dribble drive game

The Pistons finally gave Stewart the green light to shoot 3s this season, and he has quickly become one of their most reliable shooters. In the last week or so, he has also showcased his improved comfort creating his own shots.

Wednesday was his best performance of the season as a driver. The Hornets tried running him off the line, and Stewart capitalized by demonstrating that he may be making an all-around leap. He scored 11 of his 19 points in the third, making all five attempts in the period. He knocked down a corner 3-pointer from a one-handed pass from Hayes to open the period, but showed off his touch by hitting a finger roll and a hook following drives to the rim.

In the fourth, he had consecutive driving dunks — one in a halfcourt set and another one in transition — to give Detroit a four-point lead with seven minutes remaining. Stewart is still developing his vision — he had a sloppy turnover to Duren midway through the opening period trying to find him for a layup. But with each passing week, he looks more like a natural stretch power forward.

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