NBA better 'get their shots in on us now,' because Pistons are coming


Even with their best player sitting on the bench, the Pistons gave the star-studded Timberwolves all they could handle Sunday night. Minnesota pulled away in the fourth quarter, but it was another reminder that Detroit Basketball is on its way back.

"I thought we played some good basketball. We just didn’t play long enough stretches of it," said Dwane Casey. "And that’s the mark of us this year. Our growth potential, I would say, is to make sure we extend that, because I thought the ball was hopping, I thought we had some good defensive possessions."

Led by another scoring outburst from Saddiq Bey, another stout rebounding effort from Isaiah Stewart and a fourth-quarter awakening on the part of Killian Hayes, the Pistons were within five points with under four minutes to play. But Karl-Anthony Towns, Anthony Edwards and D'Angelo Russell sealed the game for Minnesota down the stretch.

"They’re a high-powered offensive team, they’ve got a lot of No. 1 picks, they do a great job playing together," said Casey. "But I thought we held our own for first- and second-year kids."

They held their own without Cade Cunningham, who missed his third straight game due to a hip pointer. The fellow 20-year-old Hayes stepped up in his absence, finishing with 10 points -- all in the fourth quarter -- and eight assists in one of his most assertive performances of the season.

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"Growth comes in different forms," said Casey. "I thought tonight Killian Hayes had growth. When you go against Patrick Beverley, who’s one of the top defensive point guards in the league, and hold your own and get the ball where you want it to go, got a dunk over him, that’s growth for him. I was proud of him to see that."

The T-Wolves are one of the NBA's best offensive teams, led by a pair of first overall picks and two of the league's top-20 scorers this season in Towns and Edwards. And Russell, a former second overall pick himself, is an elite passer. All of them are 26 or younger. It took Minnesota time to build a team around Towns, but it finally has the look of a long-term contender.

With a solid young core headlined by a rising star in Cunningham, and another high draft pick coming their way, the Pistons might not be far behind.

"They have a lot of weapons, but we’re going to get there," said Casey. "I hope everybody in the league gets their shots in on us now, because we’re going to get there in due time."

Bey had his 18th 20-point game of the season on Sunday -- six more than he had all of last season when he was a first-team All-Rookie -- and seventh in the past month. Stewart had his 16th game with 10-plus rebounds -- three more than he had all of season when he was a second-team All-Rookie -- and fifth in a row. Along with Cunningham, they'll represent Detroit in the NBA's Rising Stars Challenge later this month.

But the most encouraging sight in Minnesota was a newly aggressive Hayes, who attacked the rim when his team needed points. In Casey's words, "patience has paid off" with the former seventh overall pick.

While Bey and Stewart have both played well over 100 NBA games, Hayes is still working on his first season's worth of action after missing most of last year with a hip injury. Sunday marked his 67th career game and reignited hopes of what he can be in a back-court duo with Cunningham. And what the Pistons can be moving forward.

"Really, he’s a rookie," said Casey. "He’s a young man who played 25 games last year and even then, he was feeling his way through it. So that’s what we expect out of him, the growth from him, handling the basketball, making good decisions, making plays without turning it over.

"It’s not coming out as a W, but there is individual growth and then a lot of collective growth. It’s just not coming out in a W and that’s the frustrating thing, I’m sure for our fans, and sometimes for myself. But like I say every night: the big picture."

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