It was April 1, but the injury report for the Detroit Pistons’ road game against the Oklahoma City Thunder was no joke.
A total of 17 players for both teams combined sat out with injuries. The Pistons were without Jerami Grant, Marvin Bagley III, Cory Joseph, Kelly Olynyk (remainder), Hamidou Diallo, Luka Garza and Chris Smith, and the Thunder had lost virtually all of their key players. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Josh Giddey, and Lu Dort all missed the match with several of their cast members.
It was clear that both teams are in prime position for the No. 1 pick in the 2022 NBA Draft Lottery. And despite the absence of seven players and the presence of Cade Cunningham, Saddiq Bey and Isaiah Stewart after the first quarter, the Pistons (22-56) prevailed, 110-101, to win their second straight game.
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Killian Hayes had the best all-around game of his two-season career, finishing with a career-high 26 points, eight assists, seven rebounds and five steals. Frank Jackson scored 26 points and Isaiah Livers finished with career highs in points (17) and rebounds (11) for his first double-double. Saben Lee also had a double-double with 11 points and 12 assists, and Jamorko Pickett had 13 points and made four 3-pointers.
Detroit led by a whopping 22 points and took control of the game with a 17-0 run in the second quarter, extending its lead to double digits. After the win, the Pistons hold the third-worst record in the NBA, separated from the Thunder in league standings by half a game.
Hayes has a career night
Hayes has been a reluctant shooter for most of the season, entering Friday averaging 6.6 shots per game, 10th on the list among players who have appeared in at least 10 games. He is generally more comfortable dictating the pace of the game than taking charge.
Friday was different. The Pistons were deprived of many of their best offensive options, especially after Cunningham and Bey sat out early. It was the perfect environment for Hayes to become a top offensive option as he made a career-high 25 shots, of which he knocked down 12 (also a career-high).
Continuing a recent trend, Hayes seemed comfortable attacking the lane and ending up in traffic. He was 2 for 9 from 3, but 10 for 16 inside the arc. He continues to play with more confidence as the season draws to a close.
Livers delivers in first NBA start
A concussion recently cost Livers four straight games. He didn’t miss a beat back on Thursday, however, knocking down three of four 3-point attempts and playing the entire fourth quarter of Detroit’s 102-94 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers.
Livers picked up where he left off with his first start of the season on Friday. He put in another strong performance both ways, finishing with the first double-double of his career and setting career highs in points and rebounds.
Livers’ outside shooting and high basketball IQ made him an attractive prospect in last year’s draft. He’s missed most of this season as he recovered from a stress fracture in his right foot, but he’s finding his groove late in the season.
“Really happy for the young man,” Pistons coach Dwane Casey said ahead of Friday’s game. “He’s a guy I know Troy (Weaver) had his eye on all through last year’s draft. We got him. We understood that he was injured and had surgery. He worked hard. It’s good to see him coming. On top of that, he’s such a great young man. He has a pure heart, plays with a pure heart, roots for his teammates, is happy with their success. That’s why they’re shooting for him while he’s there.
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