Detroit Pistons (22-56) vs. Indiana Pacers (25-53)
When: 5 p.m. Sunday.
Where: Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
TV: Bally Sports Detroit Extra.
Radio: WWJ-AM (950) (Pistons radio affiliates).
For more Pistons coverage: Download our free mobile app on iPhone or Android and subscribe to our new podcast “The Pistons Pulse” with Motor City Hoops’ Bryce Simon and Free Press sports writer Omari Sankofa II (listen to this week’s episode above or wherever you listen to podcasts).
SURGING PISTONS:First-rounders take over in second half in upset of 76ers
Game notes: For 18 months, it has looked like, well, if not a bust, than certainly a low-level whiff, as Pistons general manager Troy Weaver opted for guard Killian Hayes with the No. 7 pick in the 2020 NBA draft and left guard Tyrese Haliburton to fall to No. 12 and the Sacramento Kings. It wasn’t close their rookie seasons, as Haliburton averaged 13 points, 5.3 assists and three rebounds in 30.1 minutes a game over 58 appearances for the Kings, while Hayes, limited by a hip injury, played just 26 games while averaging 6.8 points, 5.3 assists and 2.7 rebounds in 25.8 minutes a game. The two appeared headed even further in different directions as the Pacers traded for Haliburton (averaging 14.3 points, 7.4 assists and 3.9 rebounds in Sacramento) to spark their impending rebuild, and Hayes was moved to the Pistons’ second unit. In Indy, Haliburton is averaging 17.2 points, 9.5 assists and 4.1 rebounds over 22 games.
But now, Hayes’ believers have some ammunition: The Florida native who won’t turn 21 till July had a career night on Friday in Oklahoma City. Hayes scored 26 points as a lack of other offensive options sent him on the attack again and again. He hit 12 of his 25 attempts, including a 2-for-9 mark from 3-point range, and added eight assists, seven rebounds and five steals against the Thunder’s suspiciously G League-like lineup.
Of course, Haliburton had a night himself Friday: 10-for-11 overall, 6-for-6 from 3-point range en route to 30 points, two assists and three steals in a 128-123 loss to the Boston Celtics. He got his AND didn’t damage the Pacers’ lottery pick hunt.
About those lottery standings: Detroit is third, which would give the Pistons a 14% chance of moving up to No. 1 (like they did last year for Cade Cunningham, who is making his Rookie of the Year case since the All-Star break) and a 52.1% chance of staying in the top four. But the Pistons are a scant half a game ahead of the Thunder at No. 4, and three games “up” on the Pacers, at No. 5.
After Sunday’s showdown in Indy, the Pistons come home for a Wednesday game against the Mavs and a visit from the defending champion Bucks on Friday before, finally, the season finale against the 76ers in Philly on April 10. The Pacers, meanwhile, have a home-and-home against the 76ers on Tuesday and Saturday (on the road), then finish the season against the Nets in Brooklyn.
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