Final swing goes Portland’s way as Pistons come back from 19 down to lead, then lose
Sam Forencich (NBAE/Getty)
Three quick observations from Sunday night’s 107-104 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers at Moda Center
GAME OF SWINGS – The Pistons opened February by spotting Denver a 21-point first-quarter lead before coming back to win in overtime on Super Bowl Sunday. A similar plot line was afoot three weeks later as they saw Portland take a 19-point first-quarter lead, wiping that out in the second quarter with a 19-3 run. The Pistons led by 10 in the second half and by six midway through the fourth quarter before Portland surged one final time and held on for the win. It was Dwane Casey’s bench that got the Pistons back in the game and three of them – Bruce Brown, John Henson and Christian Wood – were on the floor along with Derrick Rose and Tony Snell to finish the game. Portland used a late 10-0 run to wipe out a six-point Pistons lead, Detroit going scoreless on seven straight possessions that included three consecutive turnovers. The Pistons had a chance to tie or take the lead when they got the ball back with 45 seconds left trailing by two points, but Rose’s shot was blocked and Carmelo Anthony – who scored a season-high 32 points – hit a mid-range jump shot with 20.4 seconds left for a four-point lead. C.J. McCollum led Portland with 41 points, nine rebounds and 12 assists. The bench scored 70 of Detroit’s points and accounted for 32 of its 44 rebounds. Only Rose (15 points) among Pistons starters finished in double figures, while Christian Wood (26, nine rebonds), Brandon Knight (15) and Langston Galloway (13) were in double figures off of the bench. The Pistons outscored Portland’s bench 70-10.
NEWCOMERS SIT ONE OUT – The two newest Pistons, Derrick Walton and Donta Hall, didn’t get off the bench, no surprise after the game tightened up. Dwane Casey said before the game he wouldn’t hesitate to use them in the right situation but didn’t feel obliged to get them in games. Both are signed to 10-day contracts, meaning they’ll both be on the entirety of the current four-game road trip that takes the Pistons to Denver, Phoenix and Sacramento after leaving Portland. Walton went undrafted out of Michigan in 2017 and spent 2017-18 with the Miami Heat on a two-way contract, then played last season in Lithuania and Germany before sticking with the Clippers after going to training camp on a non-guaranteed deal and then losing his spot when they needed to clear cap space to accommodate the addition of Marcus Morris at the trade deadline. He gives the Pistons depth at point guard, where both Derrick Rose and Brandon Knight have missed time with various injuries this season and two-way player Jordan Bone is bumping up against his 45-day cap. Hall went undrafted out of Alabama last June, immediately signing to play for the Pistons in Summer League and then agreeing to an Exhibit 10 contract that brought him to training camp and a spot with the Grand Rapids Drive. Walton wore No. 12 and Hall No. 42 in their first game with the Pistons.
LOTTERY GAZING – There isn’t nearly the clamor among fans of losing teams this year to amass losses in pursuit of a top-three pick as there was a year ago when players like Zion Williamson, Ja Morant and R.J. Barrett were all viewed as potential franchise cornerstones. Nevertheless, the Pistons went into Sunday’s games with a better winning percentage than only five other NBA teams. After shedding Andre Drummond, Reggie Jackson and Markieff Morris this month, they’re firmly committed to playing their young players and rebuilding. Projection services vary as to where they’ll finish. ESPN.com has them finishing with 28 wins, Teamrankings.com with 27 and 538.com with 24. The discrepancy probably is due to how much weight each model places on point differential. The Pistons came into Sunday’s game at minus-2.9, better than eight other teams, though that was largely built before the roster turned over so dramatically. The 538 projection would have the Pistons finishing tied with the Knicks for the NBA’s third-worst record. TeamRankings would have them with the seventh-worst record and ESPN would have them tied with Chicago and Washington for the seventh worst.