Ex-Piston Dinwiddie hits game winner as Pistons only lead of second half can’t hold up

Stanley Johnson led the Pistons from 15 down in the second half to take a lead with 5 seconds to play but they lost by a point
Brian Sevald (NBAE/Getty)
by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

DETROIT – Even as the Pistons went 3-8 over the first 11 games without Reggie Jackson and struggled offensively, they at least could count on their 3-point shooting to keep them in games.

The Pistons ranked 25th in offense over those 11 games without Jackson after ranking 14th with him through 33 games. But they were the NBA’s No. 4 3-point shooting team over those 11 games.

They didn’t shoot it nearly that well on Sunday and, predictably, they struggled even more to score. But it looked like 100 points was going to be enough to win when Andre Drummond saved a broken play by driving from the 3-point circle down the right side of the lane to scoop in a layup with 4.7 seconds left.

The one-point lead was their first of the second half – the first since they led 12-10 in the first quarter. So their 101-100 loss – their fifth straight – was especially galling in that it was dealt them by a familiar face, Spencer Dinwiddie. His 14-footer over Ish Smith with Drummond coming to challenge with a second left sent the Pistons to 22-23, the first time they’ve slid under .500 this season.

“Ish played him well. He didn’t get an easy shot,” Stan Van Gundy said. “He made a hell of a shot.”

The Pistons made one too few, shooting just 42 percent and getting a mere 32 points from starters not named Tobias Harris. Harris scored 20 but only managed 1 of 4 from the 3-point line. The Pistons were 5 of 20 from the arc after three quarters and they trailed 77-68.

For the second straight game Van Gundy went a long way with his backups in the fourth quarter and for the second straight game they led a comeback that came up short. On Friday against Washington, it was a 17-point deficit that got cut to four. This time is was a 15-point deficit erased before Dinwiddie’s game winner.

Again, Stanley Johnson and Luke Kennard were the story. Johnson scored a season-high 18 points, playing the game’s final 17 minutes. Kennard scored 13 and hit 3 of 6 triples while the rest of the team managed to make 6 of 23.

“He was good and played well on the offensive end, too,” Van Gundy said of Johnson. “He had a good game – really good game. And I thought Luke had a good game offensively.”

Johnson downgraded himself for fouling Caris LeVert 18 seconds after his alert tip-in tied the game at 98 with 32 seconds left. LeVert split his free throws to put the Nets ahead and set up Drummond’s layup followed by Dinwiddie’s jumper.

“I was just trying to help the team,” he said. “I fouled Caris at the end and let him get a rebound, didn’t block him out, so as much as I helped I feel like I did a little bad as well. Just have to learn from it and build from it.”

Van Gundy again used Langston Galloway as his backup point guard and improvised when Drummond got into foul trouble – he sat the last four minutes of the first half with three fouls and picked up a fourth early in the third quarter – by using Anthony Tolliver in each half at center for spurts. But the Pistons simply couldn’t sustain enough offensive consistency to beat a team they hammered by 34 points earlier this month on the road.

“There’s nothing big. There’s nothing glaring,” Tolliver said. “It’s little things that add up over the course of 48 minutes that loses these games. We just need to clean up those little things and if we do that, we’ll put ourselves in position to win every night.”

But the question remains how the Pistons generate enough offense while Jackson recuperates on nights they’re not performing like one of the NBA’s top 3-point teams.

“We’ve got to get to the rim,” Harris said. “We’ve got to get higher percentage shots – free throws, layups and three balls if it’s falling. On a night like tonight, we can’t settle for mid-range. I thought we settled for that a little bit. We’ve got to find a way of mixing it up a little bit more, getting to the rim, getting some more cuts, drives to the basket and some more drop-offs to Andre, alley oops, things like that.”


Three quick observations from Sunday night’s 121-104 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena

1-FOURTH-QUARTER FIZZLE – Against the NBA’s worst defensive team – yup, that’s what Cleveland is overall this season and by an even more pronounced margin over the past month – the Pistons, ranked 28th on offense since Reggie Jackson’s injury, didn’t have much trouble generating points for three quarters. They’d amassed 87 points to that point, scoring 28, 33 and 26 points by quarter. But the Cavs showed they can still turn it up when they need to, holding the Pistons to 17 fourth-quarter points. It was tied at 95 four minutes into the quarter when Cleveland went on a 9-2 run to take a seven-point lead that the Pistons couldn’t get below four. It was a 26-9 run to close the game for the Cavs, who hit 15 of 35 from the 3-point line. Cleveland put little pressure on the ball and the Pistons only committed six turnovers, a season low, while racking up 31 assists, one off their season high. Cleveland, though struggling on the road, had won 15 of its last 17 at home almost exclusively on the strength of one of the league’s top offenses. That was also on display as the Cavs generated points in transition and did their usual damage from the 3-point arc with seven different players making at least one triple. Anthony Tolliver hit five first-half triples and finished with a season-high 20 points, one of five Pistons in double figures. Tolliver also added five assists, one of seven Pistons with at least three assists.

2-LINEUP SHUFFLE – With Avery Bradley unavailable after aggravating the groin injury that forced him to miss seven games last month and receive an injection 10 days ago, Stan Van Gundy rejiggered the lineup. Some of it likely would have happened anyway, largely the decision to start Anthony Tolliver and Tobias Harris at forward. Tolliver is the best matchup for Kevin Love, who has given the Pistons trouble dating to the 2015-16 season when the teams met in the playoffs. Ish Smith, after two games coming off the bench for Langston Galloway, was back in the starting lineup. Reggie Bullock replaced Bradley. The changes to the starting lineup triggered a few corresponding changes with the bench unit. Dwight Buycks again assumed backup duties, pushing Galloway out of the rotation, and Eric Moreland played over Boban Marjanovic as Andre Drummond’s backup.

3-A LITTLE BETTER – Tobias Harris has been in a deep 3-point shooting slump over the seven-game losing streak the Pistons carried into tipoff with Cleveland, shooting just 23 percent (8 of 35) over the seven games. He missed his first two at Cleveland before hitting an open corner three to put the Pistons ahead 40-37 about four minutes into the second quarter. On the next possession, though, Harris – in hustling after a loose ball that was already going to result in a Cleveland over-and-back turnover – was whistled for his third foul for apparently jostling Jeff Green in pursuit of the ball and also came up limping. Harris went to the locker room momentarily, then returned to the bench and received treatment for the injury. Harris came back to start the second half and missed two quick 3-pointers before making two in the third quarter and finishing 4 of 11 from the arc.

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