Another night, another game-winner for Rose as Pistons clip Pelicans
Layne Murdoch Jr. (NBAE/Getty)
NEW ORLEANS – But for the final defensive stand, it was a game Blake Griffin would like to wash from his memory. And a year ago, a Griffin game that ended with five points scored on 1 of 9 shooting almost certainly would have resulted in a Pistons loss – and not a particularly close one.
Derrick Rose’s arrival changed the calculus on that count. For the second straight game, Rose hit a game-winner, this time with 0.3 seconds remaining. Those consecutive losses to Charlotte last month when the Pistons didn’t get off a shot in similar straits after putting the ball in Rose’s hands seem like a long time ago.
“I’m just trying to learn from my mistakes,” Rose said after scoring 17 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter to spearhead the 105-103 win over New Orleans. “The Hornets game was on my mind every time I think about me being in a late-clock type of situation.”
The Pistons got the ball back with 14.7 seconds left after Griffin stoned Pelicans star Brandon Ingram, who carried his team with 31 points. Griffin didn’t spend much of the game guarding Ingram – after a 14-point first quarter, Bruce Brown spent much of the middle two quarters on him – and he likely expected to be able to drive past Griffin when he got the ball on the left wing. Ingram instead got sealed off on the baseline and had to force up a highly contested shot.
“We knew Blake couldn’t guard Ingram for a long period of time,” Dwane Casey said. “For one possession, two possessions, we wanted to have him on him to use his physicality. And he used it. He did a great job on him, forced him to hurry up his shot, and we got the rebound.”
With Rose rolling after struggling to four points on 2 of 9 shooting through three quarters, there wasn’t much doubt on whose shoulders the final possession would rest. Rose scored 11 points in the first six minutes of the fourth quarter before coming out for a brief rest, re-entering the game with 3:29 left and the Pistons nursing a two-point lead. He scored the last six Pistons points, making all three of his shots, and made 7 of 8 in the fourth quarter.
“It shows a lot with coach sticking with me,” Rose said. “You’re going to have bad shooting nights, but you’ve got to continue to play your game and that’s all I’m trying to do – just keep playing my game, staying aggressive and taking the open shots whenever I get it. I missed a lot of bunnies tonight, but it happens like that.”
The Pistons – winners of four out of five and two straight on the road after snapping a nine-game road losing streak last week at Cleveland – were fortunate to be within striking distance after a ragged first half in which they shot 33 percent, committed 14 turnovers and got a grand total of 15 points from their starters. Both Andre Drummond and Luke Kennard were limited to less than 10 minutes by foul trouble, compounding Griffin’s struggles.
They got some traction to start the third quarter, aided by New Orleans missing its first 10 3-pointers of the quarter, and outscored the Pelicans 34-21 to take a seven-point lead to the fourth. It would swell to 12 before New Orleans found a groove offensively and charged back into the lead.
Rose rode to the rescue.
“We have a minutes restriction with him, so we’re trying to keep his minutes down and then we knew we were going to get him back in,” Casey said about sitting Rose midway through the fourth quarter. “We told him when he was ready to get back. He had to use the bathroom first.”
On the final possession, Rose said he’d prefer to operate without a screen. So Casey called on Langston Galloway – the Louisiana native who celebrated his 28th birthday with 16 points and a win – to set a slip screen, in effect, a fake screen meant to throw off defensive coverage and perhaps induce a switch.
But Pelicans ace defender Jrue Holiday didn’t bite, staying in front of Rose. With about five seconds left, Rose was still 30 feet from the basket and started to make his move. He got Holiday into the paint, then created space by twirling and stepping back into an open shot inside the foul line.
“I didn’t see a double team,” Rose said. “Jrue is a great defender and I just made the right move. That’s all it was. You’re going against somebody like that, your move has got to be very precise and you’ve got to get a lot of space when you’re dealing with a great defender like Jrue.”
“He’s the youngest MVP for a reason,” Galloway said of Rose. “He closes games. I’m so happy for him. He deserves stuff like this.”
Rose’s transition from MVP winner to what he’s become – every bit as brilliant in spurts but unable to withstand the rigors of 35 minutes a night over 82 games, which explains the Pistons caution with overuse – has required him to come to terms with the limitations imposed on him by multiple injuries. But the pride that drove him to rare heights remains every bit as powerful a force as ever.
“I still have a lot even though I don’t talk or boast or brag about it. I still have goals,” he said. “I don’t let the goals put me in a box. I know where I’m at overall as a player and as a person and I believe in myself. That’s where it all starts – me believing in myself and going to an organization and a team that believes in me. I think this is the spot.”