Observations: Youthful exuberance takes sting out of latest Pistons' defeat

Rod Beard
The Detroit News
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The Pistons lost their third straight game to start the season, falling to the Atlanta Hawks, 128-120, on Monday night. On one hand, it’s another loss, but one important takeaway was that two of the rookies started and a third saw his first significant time of the season and showed some moxie.

The Pistons didn’t have Blake Griffin or Derrick Rose and on the first night of a road-home back-to-back, it was a good effort from the Pistons.

Atlanta Hawks guard Bogdan Bogdanovic (13) defends Detroit Pistons guard Killian Hayes (7) in the first half.

Here are some takeaways from the Pistons’ loss:

►Hayes is progressing: There are going to be plenty of criticisms of Killian Hayes, but in only three games, he’s still showing improvement. Having to defend Trae Young is a difficult assignment and although Hayes had some ups and downs on that end, he got better on the offensive end, with 10 points and eight assists in a season-high 29 minutes. He went 2-of-6 on 3-pointers on Monday after going 1-of-5 in the previous two games. His shot looks infinitely better when he gets his feet set, as opposed to his stepback 3, which looks to be his go-to move. It’ll be interesting to see whether they try to get him more open looks and if he can be effective as a catch-and-shoot option at times. Hayes had just two turnovers, which is progress in his goal to take better care of the ball.

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►Bey and Stewart: Bey got his feet wet in the home opener and it was a good bridge for him to get the start against the Hawks. He hit an early 3-pointer that seemed to get him in the rhythm of the game and had back-to-back baskets — a turnaround jumper and a 3-pointer —in the second quarter that showed that he can contribute in the paint and outside. Bey can be a nice piece in the rebuild. Stewart was good as well, just having energy and grabbing five offensive rebounds was a glimpse into the reason that the Pistons traded to get him at No. 16 in the draft. He still has to work on some things, but Stewart showed that he can play in short stints and be an effective rebounder and hustle player. "The young man plays so well that he wears himself out,” Casey said of Stewart.

►Jackson (Starting) Five: Josh Jackson was very good again, as he has been since the preseason — but got in the starting lineup in the reshuffle without Griffin and Rose. He had 27 points, with an efficient 11-of-19 shooting night, including three 3-pointers. Jackson has been very effective is in transition, where he just gets to the basket and is able to be an effective and efficient scorer, which the Pistons have lacked at that position. It was Jackson’s first start since the end of the 2019 season and he showed that he can produce whether he’s in the starting group or coming off the bench, which is a valuable asset to have in building a roster.

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►More than the record: The Pistons have lost all three games this season, and with the optimism taken from the young players in Monday’s game, it’s still good for the rebuild. They weren’t blown out by double digits or embarrassed with their top lineup. Even missing their top two players, the Pistons clawed back into the game and were within five points in the final minutes. That doesn’t seem like much, but it’s something. Casey, team owner Tom Gores and general manager Troy Weaver have said that they’re not going to tank games and just go out with a whimper.

►Good from the vet: Wayne Ellington, 33, is the oldest player on the roster and although that might not seem to fit with a rebuild, it’s exactly what the Pistons were looking for. He has a work ethic that the young players can emulate and if needed, Ellington can have a high level of play. He finished with 11 points in 20 minutes and provided some offense when the Pistons needed it. That’s another luxury to have, and although one could argue that those minutes could go to one of the younger players, having a comfortable option isn’t a bad thing.

Rod.Beard@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @detnewsRodBeard

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