Cavs erase 16-point deficit, complete comeback on buzzer beater over Pistons
That one will loom larger when the story of the Pistons’ thoroughly disappointing 2013-14 season is written. By the time the Cavs made their return visit Wednesday, the playoffs were a fleeting dream for both franchises.
But the magnitude of Detroit’s 97-96 loss was even more staggering. This time they led by 16 points after three quarters and still by nine with 3:38 to play after Kyle Singler’s 12-foot jump shot seemed to give them breathing room when Cleveland had chopped its deficit to seven.
Jarrett Jack scored the game’s next eight points – a 3-point shot, a long 2-point jumper and a conventional three-point play – to pull Cleveland within one with 54 seconds remaining. The Pistons then took all but 3.2 seconds off the clock, awarded possession after Josh Smith missed a jump shot with 28.5 seconds to play and given a fresh 24-second shot clock.
Brandon Jennings saw a 10-footer rim out in the final seconds and then – after a Cleveland timeout, consecutive Pistons timeouts and a fourth timeout, this one by the Cavs – Dion Waiters drained a 19-footer from the right baseline as the buzzer sounded.
“I thought the odds were in our favor,” Singler said. “Waiters hit a tough shot in the corner. I thought Rodney (Stuckey) played as good a defense as he could. We had a good feeling on what play they were going to run and he just made a tough shot.”
"They played their hearts out."- John Loyer on the Pistons
Full game quotes
“We had an idea of the two or three plays they could run and they ran one of the two we had diagrammed,” Loyer said. “The kid Waiters made a big shot.”
It was Cleveland’s only lead of the second half. The Pistons led 21-7 in the first quarter, then sputtered in the second quarter and fell behind by two points before Singler’s halftime buzzer-beater – from nearly the same spot where Waiters would win the game – gave the Pistons a 51-50 lead. They surged again in the third quarter – the Pistons outscored the Cavs 64-40 in the first and third quarters, but were outscored 57-32 in the second and fourth – then stagnated badly in the fourth when they shot 32 percent and saw Cleveland sink 5 of 10 3-pointers.
Aside from Dellavedova’s contributions, Cleveland’s guards were muted for three quarters. But in the fourth, Jack scored 11 points and Waiters and Dellevadova added six apiece, combining for 23 of Cleveland’s 31 and making 9 of 15 shots, including four 3-pointers.
“They made some big shots,” Loyer said. “Dellavedova was pretty good the entire game. I thought they got a couple of key offensive rebounds when we got stops and got some second opportunities and we didn’t get the stop when we needed or the key rebound.”
The Cavs only got two offensive rebounds in the fourth quarter, but they were huge. Both were grabbed by Anderson Varejao, who again hurt the Pistons badly with 12 points and 16 boards off the bench, sparking comebacks in both halves. Varejao tipped in a Waiters miss to make it an 11-point game with 6:50 to play, then grabbed a Waiters miss again with less than two minutes left to start a possession that ended with a Jack jumper that pulled the Cavs within four.
“We had a couple of bad possessions down the stretch where we couldn’t get a shot and they were just able to counter and get shots,” said Jennings, who went the distance in the second half and was having a terrific all-around game until missing all four of his fourth-quarter shots. “They did get aggressive, especially on the pick and rolls, and I think we were kind of rushing a little bit instead of taking our time.”
If you want to search for the silver lining, the loss strengthened the Pistons’ chances of keeping their first-round draft pick this season. A win would have put them a game ahead of Cleveland in the loss column. The loss left them with a 26-45 record to Cleveland’s 29-44 and means the Pistons still have one of the league’s eight worst records. The final dispensation of their pick – one they owe to Charlotte eventually – won’t be known until the May 20 draft lottery. But if they go into the lottery in the No. 8 spot, they would have an 83 percent chance to keep the pick.
That seemed small consolation as Waiters’ shot ripped through the nets and tore another hole in the heart of a team that’s suffered a jaw-dropping string of stunning losses in a season gone wrong.
“It was a tough shot,” said Jennings, who rolled his eyes to the rafters in disbelief as the buzzer sounded. “He made it with a hand in his face. What more could you say?’