It was over early as Knicks sprint to 30-point lead to spoil return of Killian Hayes for Pistons
Chris Schwegler (NBAE via Getty Images)
Three quick observations from Saturday night’s 125-81 loss to the New York Knicks at Little Caesars Arena
OVER EARLY – Never a good sign when the starters get pulled having scored a collective … ahem, 1 point. That was the ignominy that befell the Pistons on Saturday when the New York Knicks – on a three-game losing streak and apparently in a dour mood because of it – stormed to a 14-0 lead in the first 3:29, at which point Dwane Casey cleared his bench. The Knicks raced to a 41-15 lead after a quarter and outscored the Pistons 27-0 from the 3-point arc and had one player, Julius Randle (20) with more points than the Pistons and another (Reggie Bullock) with only one point less than their team total. The Knicks, apparently, are a bad matchup for the Pistons. They won the season series 3-0. Their lowest-scoring first half of the season (37 points) came against the Knicks on Feb. 28. They were on target to establish a new low until outscoring the Knicks 20-9 over the last 6:30 of the half. The Pistons came within 17 points midway through the third quarter before the Knicks pushed it back to 30 in the fourth quarter and kept going. It was the Pistons worst loss of the season, topping the 118-91 defeat at the hands of Golden State. Jerami Grant led the Pistons with 16 points. Randle finished with 29 and Bullock 22 for the Knicks, who hit 18 of 38 from the 3-point line.
KILLIAN’S COMEBACK – One day short of three months since he suffered a hip injury in his seventh game, Killian Hayes returned for the Pistons. Hayes, who missed 41 games, entered the game when Dwane Casey pulled his starters less than four minutes after tipoff after the Knicks opened with a 14-0 run. He wound up playing 20 minutes – including a stint of 12 straight minutes in the second half - and finished with five rebounds and three assists. He missed both his shots, one a triple, but committed just one turnover. Hayes showed off his passing skills and vision, firing three eye-opening passes in the first quarter. Fitting of the Pistons night, they produced only one assist, a dunk for Hamidou Diallo after Hayes grabbed a defensive rebound and fired a bullet pass to a streaking Diallo. He also found a wide-open Wayne Ellington a cross-court pass and led Isaiah Stewart perfectly to the basket for a would-be layup that was blocked from behind. In the second half, Hayes made another crisp cross-court pass to Hamidou Diallo that produced a layup and drove to the paint to find a wide-open Saddiq Bey at the 3-point line. He set up Jerami Grant and Ellington again for open threes that missed, then hit Diallo for a triple and found Frank Jackson with a dazzling pass for a corner three that missed.
BACKCOURT CROWD – Hayes wasn’t the only Pistons player returning from injury. Dennis Smith Jr., who’d missed the past five games with lower-back soreness, played 12 minutes and finished with five points, three rebounds and two assists against his former team. That gives the Pistons four point guards – rookies Hayes and Saben Lee, plus trade acquisitions Smith and Cory Joseph. Dwane Casey said he would play Hayes off the ball at least some of the time over the season’s final six weeks, a move in part made to take some of the playmaking responsibility off of the rookie’s plate. Lee has started the past five games. He finished with three points and two assists in 12 minutes.
Playing Hayes off the ball eases the logjam at point guard, but it creates another one at shooting guard where the Pistons also have Josh Jackson, Wayne Ellington and Frank Jackson. They all played against the Knicks as Casey used 12 players in the first half alone. Jackson finished with five points, four rebounds and three assists in 23 minutes but shot 2 of 9 one game after scoring a season-high 31 points in Thursday’s rout of Washington. Ellington went scoreless in 12 minutes. Frank Jackson finished with five points in 15 minutes.