Instant classic: Pistons grind out a 4OT win in Chicago in ‘an epic game’

Andre Drummond fouled out, but not before a career-high 33 points and 21 rebounds as the Pistons won a four-overtime thriller in Chicago
Gary Dineen (NBAE/Getty)
by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

CHICAGO – Stan Van Gundy called it epic. He might have considered another word if the fourth overtime – the first in Detroit Pistons history – hadn’t gone the way it did.

“You don’t play too many four-overtime ones. I’ve never been in one,” Van Gundy said after the 147-144 win. “It was incredible, but it’s only fun if you’re on our end. It’s excruciating if you’re on their end and it’s excruciating while you’re going through it.”

The game took 3 hours, 24 minutes, an hour longer than a typical NBA game. Three Pistons fouled out in the fourth overtime. Three starters played 50-plus minutes, topped by Marcus Morris’ 57, and all five logged a career high. Andre Drummond set a career-high with 33 points and 21 rebounds.

Reggie Jackson had chances to win it at the end of each of the first three overtimes, but the misses didn’t do anything to rattle his confidence – Jackson scored 13 of his 31 points in the last overtime, including 10 straight early as the Pistons opened the overtime with a 7-0 run.

“I felt awake. I felt lively,” Jackson said. “I wasn’t really tired, especially once we got into those later overtimes. I think the moment takes over and you’re just happy to be a part of a game like that. You just dig deep and you find a way to keep competing. I think both sides do that. I think we put on a great show tonight.”

Jackson dished out 13 assists and committed only two turnovers – the Pistons had only 11 in a 68-minute game – and Van Gundy threw the playbook out and ran nothing but Jackson pick-and-roll plays in overtime.

“It was (Derrick) Rose or (Jimmy) Butler running pick and rolls and Reggie Jackson running pick and rolls,” Van Gundy said. “We didn’t trick anybody. They didn’t trick anybody. That’s the way it was.”

The Bulls had a chance to force a fifth overtime but Butler – who scored a career-high 43 points and had just nailed a triple to pull Chicago within one with 4.7 seconds left – missed from nearly the same spot on the right wing.

“I was just happy he missed,” said Marcus Morris, who played more minutes than anybody, 57. “He really had it going. They all had it going.”

“He’s an All-Star for a reason,” Jackson said. “He’s tough minded. He always believes he has a chance and I’m pretty sure that’s where they wanted the ball – and that’s who we didn’t want to have the ball. Just happy it came up a little short and wide right and just happy to come out with a win. … We got what we came here for.”

The game put the perfect punctuation mark – an exclamation point, at that – on a stretch of the schedule that Van Gundy knew would severely test the Pistons.

“Seventeen games in 29 days. Tomorrow will be the first time in over four weeks that we’ve had more than a day between games,” Van Gundy said. “A tough, tough stretch. I think our guys came through it pretty well.”

The Pistons get three days off before playing again at Miami on Tuesday night. They haven’t had more than one day off between games since hosting Cleveland on Nov. 17 and playing next at Minnesota on Nov. 20.

It would have been understandable, given their load – the Pistons came into the night having 27 games under their belt to Chicago’s 23 – if they’d simply run out of gas, physically or mentally or both. That they gutted it out through four overtimes – and on the road, and against a notoriously gritty team with oodles of playoff experience– says something about their fight.

“Tough. Tough minded. Different team from last year,” Jackson said. “Group of guys who continue to have faith and believe in each other. We think we can overcome any obstacle and if we have faith like that, we feel like we can give ourselves a good shot in any position that we’re put in.”

Morris, one of the newcomers who has helped transform team chemistry and inject a dose of toughness, saw the same thing. The way to beat fatigue? Don’t acknowledge it exists.

“I couldn’t even feel the fatigue, honestly,” he said. “When you’re playing, you can’t really feel it. My adrenaline took over. Now I can feel it. My back’s starting to hurt. My legs are killing me. But during the game, I couldn’t feel it.”

The Pistons looked on the ropes in both the second and third overtimes, falling behind by four points each time. In the second OT, Morris and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope hit back-to-back triples at a time the Pistons were 5 of 23 in the game from the arc. In the third OT, they worked the Jackson-Drummond pick and roll for consecutive Drummond baskets to tie.

Before the fourth overtime, Van Gundy had a message … or maybe a plea.

“Not that saying it makes any difference. I said, ‘We just have to quit trading baskets and we’ve got to get four or five stops,’ ” he said. “And we did. That was a key. We got up seven and it gave us enough margin. An excruciating game, but a great one.”

Properly nurtured, it was the kind of win that spurs a growth spurt and gives teams something to recall in tough times ahead. The Pistons appear ready to take the next step now, more than a third of the way into the season with a string of impressive wins on their resume and plenty of growth potential ahead of them.

“We’re tough, man. We got it done,” Morris said. “I’m happy we won.”

FAST BREAKDOWN

Three quick observations from Friday night’s 147-144 four-overtime win over the Chicago Bulls

SLAM DUNK – Somebody call the guys at NBA TV. We had us one of those instant classics in Chicago. Also, you might want to remember it down the road when Stan Van Gundy’s teams find themselves making playoff runs, because this was the type of game – a four-overtime win the Pistons will cherish for the many obstacles overcome and fatigue that had to set in for starters who all played between 49 and 55 minutes. The Pistons scored the first seven points of the fourth overtime, but Chicago pulled back within one point on a Jimmy Butler triple with five seconds left. Reggie Jackson (31 points, 13 assists) hit two free throws with 4.4 seconds left and the Pistons survived another triple attempt from Butler to win it. The Bulls had a chance to end it in regulation, but Derrick Rose missed a 20-footer. The Pistons had chances to win at the end of both of the first three overtimes, but Jackson missed runners to end each of the first two and a jump shot to end the third. Andre Drummond scored a career-high 33 points to go with 21 rebounds. He, Marcus Morris and Stanley Johnson all fouled out in the fourth overtime. The Pistons overcame a 27 for 46 night at the free-throw line – Chicago made its first 20 and finished 39 of 44 – and an 8 of 29 night from the 3-point line, though they got huge triples in the third overtime from Marcus Morris and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope after they trailed by four. Butler finished with 43 for Chicago in what is the first four-overtime game in Pistons history.

FREE THROW – The Pistons got valuable contributions from their two oldest players, Steve Blake and Joel Anthony. With Aron Baynes missing the game with back spasms, Joel Anthony served as the backup to Andre Drummond. The Pistons led by three points to start the second quarter when Anthony replaced Drummond and they were up by five when he handed it back to Drummond a little more than five minutes later. The Bulls scored just nine points in that time, Anthony knocking down two foul shots and grabbing two rebounds, though his biggest contribution was shutting down the paint to penetration. Blake had to come on earlier than usual when Reggie Jackson checked out with two quick fouls and he played 12 of his 19 minutes in the first half and scored eight points, hitting all three of his shots, with a rebound, an assist, a steal and no turnovers. Blake also played very good defense on Derrick Rose, stifling his penetration. Anthony had to finish the game when Drummond fouled out in the fourth overtime.

3-POINTER – The Pistons’ defense has traveled well this season. It’s their offense that’s led to the disparity in their home-road record. The Pistons are 10-4 at The Palace this season – they had a last shot to win or tie in three of their losses – and came into Friday’s game 5-8 on the road. Their defensive numbers show very little difference. They give up 98.2 points at home, 98.5 on the road. Opponents shoot .451 against them at home, .459 on the road. Opponents do shoot a little better from the 3-point arc in their own arenas – .371 to .322 at The Palace – but the difference is mitigated somewhat by the fact road opponents take 20.2 triples a game against the Pistons to the 21.4 they take at The Palace. It’s a little different story at the other end. The Pistons average 104.5 in home games and shoot .441 overall and .361 from the 3-point line – league average are 100.8, .444 and .350 – while their corresponding road numbers are 95.3, .409 and .299. A good chunk of the disparity can be chalked up to the road-heavy schedule in November when the Pistons were struggling offensively. The Pistons played 11 of their first 17 games on the road. They averaged 107.9 in their last 10 games before Friday and been over 100 points eight times in that stretch compared to being over 100 only four times in those first 17 games. The 147 they put up at Chicago is going to give a nice boost to their road scoring average.

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