Hayes looks to build on confidence from deep, role in offense
New York — It was just one shot in one game, but it could turn into something bigger, if Killian Hayes can build on it.
With 2:53 left in the game, Hayes got the ball from Hamidou Diallo and stepped into a 3-pointer and shot it with confidence. The big shot put the Pistons up by 11 and they held on for a 10-point win over the Miami Heat.
It’s rare to see Hayes taking clutch shots at the ends of games. That’s usually reserved for Jerami Grant, who is injured, or Cade Cunningham or Saddiq Bey. Hayes, though, is building confidence in his shot, and his 11 points Sunday were two off his season high.
Hayes is looking to carry that confidence forward and find a bigger spot for himself in the offense.
“The shot clock was low, four seconds, and we didn't have much going on that possession and Hami did a handoff and I saw it open,” Hayes said. “I just know felt confident, took that shot, and it went in, helped us win the game.”
A few weeks ago, Hayes was leading the team in 3-point shooting, and he’s building on making that a bigger part of his game, especially from the corners. The big shot Sunday was from the wing, but whatever he can do to get more reps and to feel more confident in his shot is a step forward.
“He's a very good 3-point shooter and we trust him to be able to step in and shoot those shots — and make them,” said acting coach Rex Kalamian, filling in for head coach Dwane Casey, who missed the game against the Knicks for personal reasons. “He shoots it very well, he spaces and when you run at him, he's got the speed and the power to be able to drive the slot and get to the rim.”
Hayes had two of his best back-to-back games, with eight points and a season-high 10 assists against the Houston Rockets. He’s trying to put it all together, with a good start early in games to get in the flow of the offense.
He’s also getting to the free-throw line a bit more, including tying his season high, going 4-of-4 from the line against the Heat.
“(I want to) have an impact early, especially in the first couple of minutes, to get myself going pretty fast in the game. I try to be aggressive, go to the rack, create and be more aggressive,” Hayes said. “I'm pretty confident at the free-throw line, so as many times as I can get to the free-throw line, it definitely makes me more confident in the game and also helps the team.”
Hayes will have to wait until at least Thursday, because he had to sit out Tuesday’s game against the New York Knicks because of a non-COVID illness.
Kalamian at helm
Casey was again forced to miss a game. His absence was not related to COVID. He also missed Thursday’s game at Indiana but returned for home games Saturday against the Houston Rockets and Sunday's win over the Heat. Kalamian, who was the acting coach against the Pacers, again takes the reins.
Kalamian said there isn’t much different from that first game as acting coach, but he and Casey are in frequent contact to make sure that everyone is clear on the game plan and any other details.
“Casey and I talk every day, and there are different things from Indiana to today that we’re maybe doing a little bit differently, something we did a little bit differently against Miami that seemed to work and that we'll just keep building on,” Kalamian said, “so it's more building every day rather than doing something differently.”
In his journey as an assistant coach, Kalamian has worked with Casey with the Toronto Raptors and Scott Brooks in Oklahoma City, where he’s picked up some things that have helped him become a better assistant, picking and choosing some of their tendencies to make his own.
“I've been around a lot of great coaches, and I've been able to learn from different guys, and steal a little bit (of strategy) from each guy,” Kalamian said. “So, I know what I like, what I don't like and kind of create my own way and how I like to teach.”
The Pistons’ next game is Thursday in Miami and it's unclear whether Casey will return for that game.