Ex-Piston Dinwiddie hits game winner as Pistons only lead of second half can’t hold up
Brian Sevald (NBAE/Getty)
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.”