Costly loss to struggling Magic as Pistons offense suffers late blackout
Fernando Medina (NBAE/Getty)
ORLANDO – Four possessions, four turnovers. Fifth possession, Blake Griffin at least got off a shot, though it was blocked by Aaron Gordon. On their sixth possession – the Pistons already down 9-0 and Stan Van Gundy already burning a timeout – Reggie Bullock clanked a triple off the rim.
“It’s nine to nothing and we don’t even have a shot up,” Stan Van Gundy said. “The first shot we took got blocked. It took us six possessions until we actually got a shot on the rim. We missed it, but I was happy we got a shot up.”
Who’d have guessed that the end of the game would be even more dispiriting?
The Pistons led the vast majority of the second half after a 10-0 run early in the third quarter. And they led 97-93 midway through the fourth quarter when Van Gundy turned and nodded at Griffin and Andre Drummond, seated side by side near the end of the bench.
They scored seven points over the last 6:09 of regulation, after Griffin and Drummond’s return, and then just two points in overtime when they missed all eight of their shots and three of their five free throws in a 115-106 loss to an Orlando team on a seven-game losing streak.
Twenty-four hours after the Lakers did the Pistons a huge favor by winning at Miami and 24 hours before the Pistons face a virtual must-win situation against the Heat – the team ahead of them, now by a full three games, for the No. 8 playoff spot in the East – the Pistons lost a game they could hardly afford to drop.
“Very disappointing,” said Anthony Tolliver, who left for Griffin after the Pistons had scored 15 points in less than six minutes to hand the starters a four-point lead. “We obviously had our opportunities down the stretch. Just weren’t able to capitalize on ’em. We just went cold in that overtime and for some reason shots just wouldn’t fall for us.”
Van Gundy was buoyed by what he called the best player movement, cutting, of the season in Wednesday’s win over Milwaukee in which he inserted James Ennis in the starting lineup and brought Stanley Johnson off the bench to try to boost a unit that had been struggling. It clicked against the Bucks and Ennis again played well, scoring 21 points and hitting 8 of 9 shots including all four of his triples.
Van Gundy saw none of that movement as the Pistons scored nine points over the last 11 minutes.
“I went back to those guys – those are the guys who are supposed to win games for us,” Van Gundy said. “It’s not their fault. It’s just that we don’t move when they play.”
In the final 6:09, the Pistons shot 3 of 12 from the field and 3 of 7 from the foul line. Over the final 11 minutes – regulation plus overtime – they were 3 of 20 from the field and 5 of 12 at the line.
“I didn’t do a good job, obviously, getting us the right shots,” Van Gundy said. “And we missed the ones we got.”
“Overtime really hurt us,” said Langston Galloway, who left in the second quarter after taking an elbow that required three stitches above his right eye. “Just couldn’t buy a bucket in that overtime. I just think we missed some good shots. We had a lot of good looks. Just missed ’em tonight.”
With 20 games remaining, a three-game deficit is daunting enough. But with a six-game road trip looming in 10 days, the Pistons understand their margin for error has shrunk to imperceptible depths.
“I feel like every game is a must win down the stretch here,” Tolliver said. “There’s no nights off. There’s no lollygagging. We have 20 games to make something happen.”