‘We were standing in mud’ – early fouls, turnovers lead to Pistons loss at Memphis

Killian Hayes
Killian Hayes picked up two quick fouls as things snowballed on the Pistons in what became a 127-92 loss at Memphis
Joe Murphy (NBAE/Getty)
by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

If it’s true that every mistake is a learning opportunity, then the videotape from Monday’s preseason loss at Memphis will be a virtual educational gold mine for Dwane Casey and the Pistons.

The Pistons dug themselves a 24-point halftime hole thanks to an avalanche of fouls (14) and turnovers (13) while trying to force balls into tight spaces and getting no compensation from the 3-point line, where they were a miserable 3 of 14 in the half and hit 25 percent for the game. The second half, after a few promising possessions early, devolved into more of the same in what became a 127-92 loss.

“We were standing in mud,” Dwane Casey said. “We’ve got to stand for fight and hustle, grit and we didn’t tonight. I don’t care about missing shots, but you’ve got to compete. We’ve got a lot of good clips to show where we didn’t compete in certain areas.”

Killian Hayes made his preseason debut after missing last week’s opening win over San Antonio with a sprained ankle, the official injury of the Pistons preseason. He picked up a foul on the game’s opening possession for impeding cat-quick Grizzlies point guard Ja Morant, then another a minute later. Isaiah Stewart also was on the bench with two fouls less than two minutes into the game.

“There was a lot of frustrating stuff today. You pick any one of them – the offensive rebounds they got, the turnovers that we had, just the lack of making them feel us on the defensive end,” Cory Joseph said. “The start that we had got them in the bonus quickly. They shot about 17 free throws in that first quarter, got them into rhythm and after that they didn’t feel us.”

Joseph and fellow Canadian national team veteran Kelly Olynyk helped the Pistons momentarily stabilize the game. For all of their early woes, the Pistons trailed just 36-31 two minutes into the second quarter. But Memphis found its passing gear and the Pistons were too error-prone and couldn’t overcome their shortcomings with shot-making.

“They pushed us around in the paint,” Casey said. “They’re big and strong, but if you hit first. … I thought the first quarter set the tone because we got in the penalty in the first minute and a half and we were reactive instead of proactive. We did a good job in the first exhibition game and tonight we didn’t.”

The Pistons haven’t had their starting unit intact since the first practice or two of camp with Cade Cunningham still out with a sprained ankle. Hayes and Frank Jackson returned late last week after missing a week or more with their own sprained ankles. And Saddiq Bey twisted his left ankle and didn’t play in Monday’s second half.

“We’ll see how it is and see how he bounces back,” Casey said.

Jerami Grant was the only Pistons starter to score in the first quarter, putting up nine of his 13 points in the period. The starters combined to score 41 points and shot 36 percent. Frank Jackson, who slotted in at Cunningham’s spot, finished with 12 points as the only other starter in double figures.

Hayes at least had some good moments in the second half, draining a triple and finishing through contact for a three-point play. He finished with six points, two assists and two steals in 22 minutes.

“You’re going against one of the quickest guys in the league,” Casey said of the 20-year-old’s matchup with Ja Morant. “That was evident. I’m going to cut him some slack. He’s been out. Just the conditioning factor. You can’t miss that many days in a row and bounce back in and be game ready. That’s the good thing about having a couple more exhibition games. It’ll give him the opportunity to get out and compete and get some reps under his belt.”

Joseph, Hayes’ veteran understudy and a perpetually upbeat player, is mindful of keeping Hayes’ confidence intact.

“First game back. He was aggressive, which was good,” Joseph said. “We just need him to continue to be aggressive and not let his confidence waver. We’re all behind him.”

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