The Detroit Pistons were in a groove.
After a slow start to the second half in Washington, a 19-5 run lifted them to a six-point lead with 2:23 remaining in the third quarter. Jerami Grant, Cade Cunningham and Saddiq Bey were all cooking. A back-and-forth game appeared to be shifting into Detroit's favor.
But the Wizards capitalized after Detroit's high-scoring trio sat for rest, using an 18-0 run to take a 12-point lead early in the fourth quarter.
Grant, Cunningham and Bey returned and eventually tied the game at 104 with less than four minutes to play, but a 6-0 Wizards run gave them the lift they needed to hand the Pistons a close 116-113 defeat on Tuesday.
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Jerami Grant led all scorers with 26 points, Cade Cunningham finished with 20 points, nine rebounds and five assists, and Bey added 19 points and seven rebounds. Killian Hayes contributed seven points, seven rebounds, five assists and three steals, and Isaiah Stewart nearly had a double-double with nine points and nine rebounds. Flint native Kyle Kuzma led the Wizards with 21 points.
Grant stays hot
The Pistons wouldn't have won Sunday's nail-biter against the Charlotte Hornets if it weren't for Jerami Grant's heroics. Grant scored seven of his 26 points in overtime, and knocked down a pair of buckets to bring the Pistons back from a five-point deficit with 2:50 on the clock.
Grant didn't score his first points until the second quarter on Tuesday against the Wizards. He didn't miss many shots afterwards, though. It was one of his most efficient performances since he returned from thumb surgery and health and safety protocols on Feb. 1, and he scored most of his points by doing what he does best — attacking the rim, getting to the line and knocking down 3-pointers.
He's had an up-and-down, injury-marred season but appears to be regaining his rhythm. It was the first time he scored at least 20 points in back-to-back games since he returned to the lineup. Tuesday was also one of his better performances as a passer, as he did a great job keeping his head up and locating shooters after driving to the rim.
Hayes showing reliability in crunch time
It's been a little more than two months since the coaching staff moved Hayes to the bench. At the time, Casey didn't characterize the move as a demotion. Rather, it was presented as a chance for Hayes to run the show on his own, separated from Cunningham. The fit between Detroit's two young point guards this season hasn't been perfect, and playing with the second unit has allowed Hayes to have the ball in his hands more.
But Cunningham and Hayes have still played — and thrived — next to each other in the two months since. Hayes has finished multiple games alongside Cunningham in that span. Hayes played the final 17 minutes of Sunday's win against the Hornets, playing all 12 minutes of the fourth quarter and all of overtime. He delivered the game-winning assist to Kelly Olynyk on an inbounds pass.
"I thought he was doing a better job defensively on (Terry) Rozier," Casey said after the game. "Nobody really stopped him but I thought he used his physicality of slowing down, the slipouts, his size going into a one on one situation. And it gives us another ball handler and reader in that situation. Just like the way he was engaged and involved. It’s one of his consistent nights. Now we gotta keep that going in the right direction and build another game off of that."
Hayes also closed Tuesday's loss against the Wizards, playing the entire fourth quarter. Hayes among Detroit's best perimeter defenders, and he was a difference-maker on that end once again by logging three steals, a block and hounding Washington's guards all night. That was in addition to seven points, seven rebounds and five assists. Hayes hasn't been one to score many points early in his career, but his all-around versatility has been useful for Detroit late in games.
Contact Omari Sankofa II at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @omarisankofa. The Free Press now has a digital subscription model. Here's how you can access to our most exclusive Pistons content. Read more on the Detroit Pistons and sign up for our Pistons newsletter.
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Pistons put under spell by Wizards in 116-113 loss