The Detroit Pistons primarily are concerned with player development and evaluation at this stage of the season. That hasn’t prevented them from winning games, however.
The lottery-bound Pistons can secure their second three-game winning streak of the season with a victory against the Indiana Pacers on Sunday in Indianapolis.
Detroit rallied in the fourth quarter on Thursday to post a 102-94 victory over Philadelphia, then notched a 110-101 win over Oklahoma City on the road on Friday.
The latter game resembled a G League contest, as the Pistons (22-56) rested many of their regulars for most or all of the game while the Thunder also used a makeshift rotation.
Jerami Grant, the Pistons’ leading scorer, is out for the season due to a calf strain. Kelly Olynyk, Cory Joseph, Hamidou Diallo and Marvin Bagley III also missed the game. Coach Dwane Casey then sat three starters — Rookie of the Year candidate Cade Cunningham, Isaiah Stewart and Saddiq Bey — in the final three quarters.
“It gave us the opportunity to play the young guys and that’s what we wanted to do,” Casey said. “If we were competing for a playoff position, they could have definitely gone out and played. But we wanted to make sure we didn’t risk anything.”
Second-year guard Killian Hayes and Frank Jackson filled the scoring void. They supplied 26 points apiece, and Hayes filled the stat sheet with eight assists, seven rebounds, five steals and two blocks.
Hayes, a 2020 lottery pick, has shown steady improvement after being moved into a reserve role. He got the start on Friday in place of Joseph.
“I think it’s just trusting my work,” Hayes said. “I put in a lot of work with the coaches and now it’s just executing it on the floor. Just being aggressive, playing with two feet in the paint. I know I can create great things when I’m in the paint, either finishing or finding an open teammate.”
The Pistons likely will have a more recognizable unit on the floor against the Pacers.
“Coaches say it all the time this year. We’re building still,” Hayes said. “But next year, we’re trying to make the playoffs. That’s what we’re working for right now, all throughout the summer, and next year we’ll be ready.”
The Pacers (25-53) will be looking to snap a six-game losing streak. They gave the Celtics a tough battle in Boston on Friday before falling, 128-123.
Tyrese Haliburton scored 30 points and made all but one of his 11 field-goal attempts. The second-year guard fouled out early in the fourth quarter.
“I think everybody in the building would rather have seen a no-call because even if you’re a Celtics fan, you’d love to see Tyrese Haliburton playing in the fourth quarter,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “The way he was playing, it was beautiful basketball.”
Haliburton’s output was his highest since Jan. 29, when he scored 38 points against the Philadelphia 76ers before he was traded by Sacramento.
“We want him to be like that all the time,” forward Oshae Brissett said. “We love the way he likes to get everyone involved, but we know he can (score like that) any night. It’s good to see, great to see. It helps build confidence for him and everyone else, knowing that we can rely on him in certain situations.”
Detroit has won two of the three meetings between the teams this season.