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

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.”