After dreadful start, crazy comeback in Denver falls a 3-pointer at the buzzer short for Pistons
Garrett Ellwood (NBAE/Getty)
Three quick observations from Tuesday night’s 95-92 loss to the Denver Nuggets at Pepsi Center
CRAZY COMEBACK – The Pistons couldn’t have imagined a worse scenario to start a game that was going to be tough to win in the best of circumstances. They missed their first 10 shots. They scored a season-worst nine points in the first quarter, barely half the previous low of 17. And they fell behind by 23 points early in the second quarter. Then they gave themselves a chance with a 19-6 run to pull within 10 points with still five minutes to play in the second quarter. But Denver closed the half on a 22-5 run to blow the Pistons out of the water. They held Denver to 15 third-quarter points, but still trailed by 19 entering the fourth. But they cut it to nine with five minutes left and to five with two minutes to go. Denver had scored just eight points in the first 11 minutes of the fourth quarter, but then Jamal Murray hit a pair of runners around a Wayne Ellington triple that pulled the Pistons with two points with 35 seconds to go. Reggie Jackson’s triple with 10.5 to play pulled the Pistons within a point. After Murray’s two free throws with 10 seconds left, the Pistons got a Blake Griffin wide-open look from the corner to tie it but the shot bounced high off the rim and off. As bad as their offense was in the opening minutes, their defense in the last five minutes of the first half was what really put the Pistons in a deep hole. Denver scored on its last nine possessions and scored two baskets in the final second of the half – a home-run inbounds pass by Griffin sailed out of bounds, meaning Denver got the ball back under its basket – to take a 27-point halftime lead. The loss dropped the Pistons back to .500 at 37-37 with eight games remaining, five at home.
BLAKE’S BAD DREAM – In the first seven minutes, Blake Griffin took 10 shots. It wasn’t until the last of those, a layup, that he got on the scoreboard. The tone was set on the first possession when Griffin missed a layup, got the rebound and missed another layup. A few minutes later, he missed four shots – all point-blank attempts – on the same possession. In between, he missed three 3-point shots, one of them an air ball. Griffin picked up six offensive rebounds in 6:43 before taking a seat in the first quarter – and all six of those rebounds came off of his own missed shots. When Griffin checked out with 5:17 left in the first quarter, as bad as things were, the Pistons trailed by just eight points. The deficit ballooned to 16 before the second quarter began. Griffin finished with 29 points and 15 rebounds. He shot 12 of 32 and 2 of 10 from the 3-point arc.
RACE IS ON – The results of the last several days have muddied the waters considerably for the Pistons where their playoff bid is concerned. Charlotte’s win over San Antonio was its fourth straight and third in the last four days – all against playoff teams: Boston, Toronto and the Spurs. Orlando, meanwhile, beat Miami a night after routing Philadelphia. And so the two teams that looked all but dead in the race a week ago are now imminent threats to the Pistons, Brooklyn and Miami for the last three playoff spots. Orlando’s win over Miami, its sixth straight, jumped the Magic over the Heat into eighth place with Orlando owning the tiebreaker. The importance of Thursday’s game with Orlando has been amplified. The Pistons can win the tiebreaker with the Magic as they currently hold a 2-1 lead in their season series.