Ousted in OT
Pistons lose Drummond, then lose 25-point lead and fall in OT to Pacers
That’s pretty much the triple crown of bad news. March Madness, indeed.
Coupled with wins by New York and Atlanta, it leaves the Pistons’ playoff chances dimmer than when the day dawned, when they weren’t so bright to begin with. With 16 games remaining, the Pistons are five games behind Atlanta in the standings and six down in the loss column. Eleven of those 16 remaining games come on the road, starting with a four-game swing to the West Coast.
“We dug a hole early and now each and every game is like a playoff game to us,” Josh Smith said after the 112-104 loss to Indiana. “It is a little frustrating, as talented as we are, that we dug the hole this deep, but we have to try to do a job each night, doing what we can to win games.”
That job gets more daunting if Drummond has to miss any time. That he might not counts as the best news of the night. He appeared to dodge potentially serious injury. He went to the hospital for tests on his neck; they came back negative. Drummond was in the locker room after the game with a modest brace on his neck. He said he was “a little sore” but otherwise fine.
The injury occurred just five minutes into the game underneath the Indiana basket. After a scramble for a rebound, Drummond had the ball roll between his legs. In bending over to grab it, his head collided with a tangle of Indiana players and he fell backward, clutching at the back of his head as he did so.
He stayed down for three or four minutes while Pistons trainer Mike Abdenour and strength coach Arnie Kander tended to him. A stretcher was summoned but Drummond rose to his feet, aided, and walked very slowly to the locker room, one arm draped around both Abdenour and Kander.
“I got my hand on the ball and the ball rolled between my legs,” he said. “I reached down and my head hit Roy Hibbert’s thigh and sent a shock through my entire body. Was I scared? No, I knew it wasn’t that severe as I thought it was – just a little bit of a scare. Stiff in the neck, so take precaution with that and make sure everything is all right.”
"We competed tonight, but it is a little frustrating that we fell short knowing how well we played in that first half."- Josh Smith on the loss
Full game quotes
John Loyer got major contributions in the second quarter from Jonas Jerebko and Charlie Villanueva as the Pistons took a 25-point lead over the Eastern Conference’s best team. It was 56-31 with 3:24 left in the half after Jerebko flew in from Stockholm to slam home a Stuckey miss, the Pistons riding waves of emotion in putting up 60 first-half points and shooting 56 percent against the NBA’s No. 1 scoring and field-goal percentage defense.
“Once Andre went down, somebody had to step up,” Loyer said. “Jonas gave very good minutes at the four and Charlie came in and more than held his own in the post and was able to spread the floor a little bit. That’s what guys do. When somebody goes down, they step up and we had very good play off the bench tonight.”
It was inevitable that Indiana would make a run. The only question was when it would come and whether the short-handed Pistons could withstand the force.
Paul George shot the Pacers back into it with a 14-point third quarter as Indiana took its 19-point halftime deficit to 11 in the first 100 seconds of the second half. The Pistons responded, though, pushing the lead back to 16. George then scored seven points in the last 1:23 and Indiana pulled within six headed to the fourth quarter.
“We know what type of player he’s capable of being,” Smith said of George, who finished with 30 points. “We didn’t do a good job in that third quarter of playing team defense on him. We did a great job in that first half, but in that third quarter we kind of slacked a little bit. He got it going.”
George missed a 16-footer that could have won it for the Pacers in regulation, but then West – relatively quiet to that point, given his history against the Pistons – took over in overtime. He hit the first basket to put the Pacers ahead and made all three of his mid-range jumpers in overtime to finish with 15 points.
“You go out and try to score the first bucket in the overtime,” Loyer said. “They came out and hit us first, made a couple of shots. We probably didn’t get it to the rim enough, but that’s kind of the way the game went.”
Kind of the way the season has gone, too. With 16 games left, the hill just got a little steeper.