Killian Hayes nets season high, but Detroit Pistons wrecked by 76ers' James Harden 123-111

Philadelphia 76ers superstar Joel Embiid missed Sunday's game with left foot soreness. Unfortunately for the Detroit Pistons, the rest of the Sixers' roster picked up the slack.

A triple-double from James Harden and strong outings from Tyrese Maxey (23 points) and Montrezl Harrell (20 points) were enough to dispose of the Pistons at Little Caesars Arena, 123-111. Detroit trailed by as many as 23 points in the second half, and lost by double digits despite shooting 50% overall from the floor.

The Pistons struggled to get many defensive stops against the Sixers, who shot 48.9%% overall and nearly became the fifth opponent in six games to shoot at least 50% overall. The Pistons also struggled with turnovers for the second game in a row, coughing the ball up 22 times to create 21 Sixers points. Detroit (11-32) also turned the ball over 22 times during its last contest against the Sixers on Dec. 21, and they tied their season-high Sunday.

Killian Hayes (26 points, six rebounds) and Isaiah Stewart (20 points, 13 rebounds) were otherwise bright spot for the Pistons, who also got 20 points and five assists from Bojan Bogdanovic. Alec Burks (12 points) and Hamidou Diallo (12 points, seven rebounds) reached double-digits off of the bench.

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Detroit Pistons guard Killian Hayes shoots a 3-pointer against Philadelphia 76ers guard James Harden during first-quarter action at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit on Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023.
Detroit Pistons guard Killian Hayes shoots a 3-pointer against Philadelphia 76ers guard James Harden during first-quarter action at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit on Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023.

Harden nearly had his triple double before halftime, tallying 13 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists through the first two periods. He was the thrust behind Philadelphia's game-clinching 16-3 run in the final four minutes of the second quarter, scoring or assisting 14 of the Sixers' points in that span, including their final 12.

After trailing 50-37 with 8:06 remaining until halftime, Detroit rallied back with a 14-5 run to cut the deficit to 55-51 with 3:52 on the clock. From there, Harden took over. He split a trip at the line and hit a stepback 3-pointer, and then assisted paint buckets to Harrell, Tobias Harris and Paul Reed to give the Sixers a 17-point halftime advantage.

Hayes stays productive after returning from suspension

After tallying 18 points (8-for-14 shooting), seven assists and five steals during Friday's road loss against the San Antonio Spurs, Hayes stayed hot on Sunday. His 26 points tied his career-high and set a new season-high, and he did so while shooting 11-for-17 overall and knocking down four of his eight 3-pointers.

Hayes shot just 27% from 3 during his previous nine games, dating back to before his three-game suspension. But he's now made six of his last 13, going 2-for-5 against the Spurs on Friday. Though Hayes only shot 25% during the Pistons’ road win over the Warriors last Wednesday, he paced Detroit’s offense with 13 assists and zero turnovers. With each game, Hayes is showing that his strong play since November is something he can sustain.

With Duren out, Noel enters rotation

The Pistons are reliving their early-season depth issues. With Duren in street clothes with a sore ankle and Marvin Bagley III out until at least All-Star weekend after undergoing finger surgery, Nerlens Noel made his ninth appearance of the season to shore up Detroit's big man rotation.

Noel only played 13 minutes, but he made the most of his time. He was defensively active, disrupting a pair of Sixers possessions at the end of the first quarter, and then sank two midrange jumpers at the beginning of the second quarter to record four points and a rebound in just six minutes.

Dwane Casey has characterized Noel as an "emergency" option for the Pistons, who have prioritized developing Duren. Neither Noel or Duren space the floor, and they're incompatible defensively as well since they're both more comfortable in drop coverage. But Noel has shown he can be productive when given the opportunity.

It remains to be seen if Duren misses extended time, but his sore ankle doesn’t appear to be a serious injury. He was listed as questionable before the game, and Dwane said he was a game-time decision.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Pistons toyed with by James Harden, Philadelphia 76ers