Tough calls in last 10 seconds go against Pistons in wrenching loss
With Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade out with injuries, the Heat – as the Cavaliers did so often the past seven seasons – leaned hard on James all night. But with the Pistons one point ahead and under 10 seconds to go, it was Eddie House – not LeBron, who had scored 39 of the Heat’s 86 points in the buildup to that moment – with the ball in his hands going up for a game-winner.
Ben Gordon looked like he got all ball, but the whistle went against him. And after two House free throws with 6.5 seconds left put Miami ahead, Austin Daye never heard the whistle he had valid reason to expect would put him at the line with a chance to win the game. Daye, taking a pinpoint inbounds lob from Tayshaun Prince with 2.7 seconds left, got hit in the chest by James Jones as he was about to dunk the winning points – but no call was made.
So one call that went against them and one non-call that never came their way, about four seconds apart, conspired to prevent the Pistons from notching an unlikely sweep of Florida. After upsetting Orlando on the road on Monday, the Pistons came within one point – and two head-scratching referees’ decisions in the final 10 seconds – of knocking off the Heat in Miami, losing 88-87.
“I missed it,” Daye shrugged. “Maybe I got a little contact, but I still figured I should have finished it. It was a rough ending to a good game.”
When I asked Daye if he expected to hear the whistle as the contact with Jones moved him visibly back toward the baseline, he said, “It’s my second year, right? I really don’t expect to hear it. Not like that. Not on a play like that. Eddie House did a good job of knocking down clutch free throws. It’s pretty tough.”
The reactions of all Pistons on the floor – and John Kuester on the sidelines – the foul Danny Crawford whistled on House spoke far louder than anything the Pistons said after the game about that call.
“I thought it was good D,” Gordon said, “but I guess I got a piece of his arm. I thought I made contact with the basketball. I tried to challenge it as best I could without falling, but the call went the other way and that’s what it was.”
“It was a close call,” Kuester said. “I thought he did a great job defensively. I couldn’t make that call.” Of the non-call on Daye, Kuester said he had yet to see the replay and kept a stiff upper lip.
“I didn’t see the contact,” Kuester said. “I haven’t seen a replay. Tayshaun made a great pass. I thought Austin had a great opportunity.”
The maddening ending undermined a solid effort for the Pistons that was only a more characteristic shooting performance short of yielding another exhilarating win. Tracy McGrady came up two rebounds shy of a triple-double – 14 points, 10 assists. Gordon scored 21 hard-earned points.
Daye had a big performance with 19 points and nine boards in 42 minutes, drawing the start at power forward as Kuester chose to match up with the Heat, who moved James to power forward and James Jones and Mike Miller into the starting lineup for Bosh and Wade. It was Daye’s triple with 1:07 left, after he chased down an offensive rebound, that gave the Pistons an 87-86 lead.
The Pistons needed extended minutes from several players, too – Prince, Gordon and McGrady all played 38-plus in addition to Daye’s 42 – because the Heat weren’t the only team playing shorthanded. Ben Wallace wasn’t with the team, tending to a family matter. Rip Hamilton was still out with the flu. And Rodney Stuckey sat this one out with the right shoulder contusion suffered in Wednesday’s loss to Denver.
“I’m so proud of our guys,” Kuester said. “They’re playing so hard and trying to do things the right way. We didn’t shoot the ball particularly well tonight, but when that happens your defense has to get better and I think our defense has.”
It was good enough to force Eddie House, and not LeBron James, to take the game’s biggest shot. And the Pistons left Miami feeling it was good enough to give them a win they deserved.