Grant’s 43 goes for naught in Pistons loss to Chicago – ‘We just needed one more guy to step up’
Randy Belice (NBAE/Getty)
The NBA is consistently a game of runs, but rarely a game with as distinct a line of demarcation as Wednesday’s. For 22 minutes, the Pistons looked positively dominant, outscoring the Bulls by 25. For the next 14 minutes, they looked positively overmatched, getting outscored 44-14.
The Pistons should have felt pretty good about themselves at halftime when they led 61-43. And maybe they did, which might have been the problem.
But the first warning signs of trouble came just before halftime. The Bulls scored the last seven points of the first half – enough for Chicago coach Billy Donovan to keep that unit out with three bench players replacing three of the starters who helped Chicago dig its 25-point hole.
“It began right before (halftime), the last two minutes of the first half,” Dwane Casey said. “Momentum kind of switched and changed. As much as I preached at halftime that they were going to come out guns ablazin’ … hardest thing to do in this league is to play with a lead. It’s something we’ve got to learn how to do. We haven’t been in that position very much.”
The 25-point comeback to win was the largest of the NBA season. The Pistons hit 4 of 19 shots in the third quarter, missed all nine of their 3-point attempts and committed six of their 13 turnovers.
“It was the third quarter. We scored 12 points to their 27,” Delon Wright said of the game’s turning point. “Defensively, that’s good if you give up around 25 points. But we just can’t score 12 points in a quarter.”
Grants surpasses career high with 43 points
Jerami Grant provided half of the Pistons’ output in the third quarter with six points, though he made just 2 of 7 shots on a night that he would have remembered much more fondly if things hadn’t gone sideways after the first 22 minutes. Grant finished with 43 points, scoring 13 in the first quarter to jump start the Pistons and then 19 in a furious fourth quarter as he nearly brought the Pistons all the way back.
Grant scored all of those 19 in the final 9:08 after sitting to start the quarter. He hit 6 of 8 shots and was a perfect 7 of 7 at the foul line. The Pistons consistently got him the ball at the top of the 3-point arc and Grant sliced and diced the heart of Chicago’s defense to get to the rim unfailingly.
“Winning matters over personal play,” Grant said of the inability to celebrate a game in which he blew past his previous personal high by 11 points. “I think we could’ve done a better job in the third quarter. We gave up the lead and down the stretch we missed a couple of shots we normally make.”
Grant had no reliable wing man, though. Saddiq Bey and Wright finished with 12 points apiece, Mason Plumlee with 11 and Dennis Smith Jr. 10. But Pistons other than Grant shot 38 percent and made just 4 of 19 from the 3-point line.
“We just needed one more guy to step up and knock down a couple of threes,” Casey said. “Our 3-point shooters had a rough night. A lot of ’em were wide-open looks we just made last week. We needed every one of (Grant’s) 43 to stay in the game.”
Chicago’s answer to Grant was Zach LaVine, averaging 28.4 points for the season. He scored 37, 15 during Chicago’s dominant third quarter. And once Chicago grabbed momentum, there was no getting it back.
“The one thing we can do better – all of us – is to play with more force,” Casey said. “The same energy you played with in the first half, you’ve got to close the second quarter and start the third quarter with the same energy. You can’t say, ‘We’ve got a 17-, 18-point lead; we can exhale a little bit.’ No, no. That’s when you really put your foot down, set the tone and make them call the first timeout.”
The Pistons called two trying to get things turned around. Casey brought in his two high-energy bench players, Josh Jackson and Isaiah Stewart, but nothing they tried worked as intended.
“There’s always an answer,” Grant said. “Obviously, we didn’t execute and we didn’t do the things we needed to do to stop the momentum. They took the momentum from us in the third quarter and they ran with it.”