Pistons miss shot at road win by handing Minnesota 24 extra possessions
When the Pistons look back at a season that will vex them, one of the most perplexing elements of it will be their road performance against Western Conference teams. Saturday was their last shot to get a win against the West and they gave themselves a chance they haven’t often had in their previous 14 such games. But their inability to hang on to the basketball – on their offensive end for the first 59 minutes and at Minnesota’s end in the final 60 seconds – cost them in a 107-101 loss.
The Pistons were within a point after Brandon Knight’s 3-pointer made it 102-101, but couldn’t corral an offensive rebound with 20 seconds left that went off Andre Drummond’s fingers. Forced to foul, they failed to grab Luke Ridnour’s miss on the second attempt, allowing him to make it a four-point game when they were again forced to foul with 15 seconds to go.
They lost a key jump ball also in the last few minutes with Andre Drummond up against point guard Ricky Rubio, and Brandon Knight – who played a gutty game, scoring 25 points after tossing away the protective mask for his broken nose five minutes into the game – fouled Rubio on a desperation 3-pointer at a time Rubio was 0 of 11.
“We shot 53 percent on the road,” said Lawrence Frank, who made a handful of references to calls that the Pistons didn’t get in a physical game in which Minnesota shot 38 free throws to Detroit’s 21. “It comes down to little plays – a jump ball where we had the size advantage, we can’t come up with it. … Our guys competed, they fought, kept coming, but between the turnovers and those little plays, that determined the outcome.”
The Pistons committed 24 turnovers, converted into 25 points by Minnesota, and those turnovers helped the Timberwolves put together 10-0 runs in each of the first three quarters. The third of those runs was especially damaging, coming immediately on the heels of an 11-0 Pistons run, capped by Kyle Singler’s three-point play, that lifted the Pistons to a 66-65 lead midway through the quarter.
“A couple of bad bounces, a couple of rebounds we couldn’t secure, a few turnovers late,” Greg Monroe said. “Any time a game is within five or less, there’s probably one or two plays that might change the game. Those plays, we have to make.”
Monroe finished with 16 points and six rebounds on a night the Pistons extended Andre Drummond’s minutes. Frank admitted he’d been capped at 24 after Wednesday’s loss at Boston, but on Friday he said the Pistons would start extending those minutes. Drummond played 31 on Saturday, finishing with nine pints, 10 rebounds and three steals and playing in tandem with Monroe down the stretch.
“Andre picked his play up the second time he went back in there,” Frank said. “We probably had a little more success playing one of them tonight, not both of them together, but they both finished the game and the game was in the balance for either team. We’re going to continue to explore the process. This takes time.”
The Pistons leaned on their backcourt for most of their scoring. Rodney Stuckey scored 13 points in the second quarter, bringing the Pistons back from 11 points behind, to supplement Knight’s 25, hitting 9 of 15 shots. Knight, playing over multiple injuries, was battered by Minnesota center Nikola Pekovic (20 points, 13 rebounds) on a series of picks that drew no call, enraging the Pistons and leading to a technical foul on Monroe.
“That’s a play that shouldn’t be allowed to happen,” Monroe said. “No call was made, but the call was made on us. It’s hard to watch. You want to be there for your teammates. At some pint, a line has to be drawn.”
“They are a physical team,” Drummond said. “That is how they get their wins. They try to beat people up to get their Ws. We did what we needed to do, but we just couldn’t pull it out at the end.”