KCP, Pistons bench rally from 18 down to score big win over Charlotte

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored 18 points in the fourth quarter and overtime as the Pistons rallied from 18 points down to beat Charlotte.
Chris Schwegler/NBAE/Getty Images
by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

AUBURN HILLS – The Pistons finished 2-for-2 in winding up on the right side of the fine line between winning and losing in games at The Palace against Charlotte this season. If they wind up in the playoffs, remember those two wins: a 115-114 decision on Jan. 5 and Thursday’s wild 114-108 overtime win.

Both games featured improbable comebacks from 15 points down after three quarters, one by each side. Both saw the fourth quarter end with Marco Belinelli having a game-winning shot for Charlotte on his fingertips.

The Pistons blew all but one point of a 19-point lead to hang on to win in January when Belinelli’s banked triple at the buzzer came a fraction of a second late. Thursday it was a reverse script – the Pistons erased an 18-point deficit with 1:53 left in the third quarter – with the Pistons surviving Belinelli’s missed 3-point try at the buzzer.

“It’s an incredible win,” Stan Van Gundy said as the Pistons improved to 28-30 and opened a 1½-game lead over Milwaukee for the No. 8 playoff spot in the East while also pulling within a half-game of Chicago for seventh.

It took an incredible final few minutes from Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who scored the team’s final 11 points of regulation in 2:17 on three triples and a driving dunk, and an inspired run from a bench led by Tobias Harris’ scoring, Ish Smith’s playmaking and a defensive spirit missing for the game’s first 34 minutes.

The Pistons held Charlotte scoreless for the last two minutes of the third quarter, then smothered them into 1 of 15 shooting to open the fourth quarter. And when it got to overtime, Charlotte went scoreless on its first five possessions and seven of eight.

“The bench,” Marcus Morris said to explain the turnaround. “The energy automatically went way up. Ish did a great job of moving the ball, getting everybody shots, and I felt like our defense picked up, too. I don’t know what it is, but once our offense picks up, our defense – it automatically happens.”

Smith’s 16 assists were the most off the bench in the NBA since Brevin Knight had 17 in 2005 and the most by a Pistons player since Kevin Porter’s 19 in 1977. The last Pistons player with 16 or more assists and just one turnover was Isiah Thomas, who posted the same 16:1 ratio against Washington on Nov. 9, 1993.

Smith played the game’s final 22 minutes as Reggie Jackson struggled to a four-point game on 1 of 6 shooting. Van Gundy knows the Pistons need their starting point guard playing a few rungs above that level to carry the season where they all want it to go. Andre Drummond (12 points, 13 rebounds) also sat the entire fourth quarter and overtime, though that was for other reasons, Van Gundy said.

“We’ve got to figure it out. We do. We need to get Reggie going. With Andre, it was more of a matchup thing. But we’ve got to get Reggie going and we’ve got to be able to play with the same energy and spirit that we do with Ish in the game.”

Smith hit just 2 of 12 shots, but the Pistons were plus-20 with him on the floor, minus-14 with Jackson. Only Morris, who scored seven of his 16 points in overtime and matched Charlotte’s overtime rebound total with three, finished in the black among Pistons starters at plus-3. Harris was plus-19, scoring 25 points and hitting 4 of 8 triples.

Caldwell-Pope finished with 33, the second-best output of his career, with 18 coming in the final 7:17 of regulation plus overtime.

“Big shots by KCP helped us all night,” Harris said. “When he’s hot like that, the only thing on our mind is to give him the basketball and let him make a play for us. That’s what he was able to do.”

His triple to tie the game at 100 with 18.2 seconds left was the first time the Pistons didn’t trail since midway through the second quarter when Charlotte answered a 12-0 Pistons run to lead 44-41 with a 21-6 run in the final six minutes of the half.

Kemba Walker was nearly as dynamic as Caldwell-Pope down the stretch in regulation, scoring Charlotte’s last nine points in 3:14. The Pistons made him give it up on the final possession, but the Hornets still swung the ball to the corner and then to Belinelli on the right wing for an open look to win it.

“Just hoping he misses,” Harris said of the thought going through his head as Belinelli lined up the shot. “He got a good look. A little bit of a flashback of last game. We did pretty much all we could and just live by the results.”

In the January win, Morris was guarding Belinelli as he took the ball out of bounds with less than a second to play. He said he baited Belinelli into throwing the ball of his back, knowing he wouldn’t have enough time to catch the carom and still get the shot off in time. This time, he was responsible for rotating to contest Belinelli’s shot and feared he might get there too late.

“I was the one closing out to him, so I was kind of like” – and here Morris gritted his teeth and winced. “I was maybe a step late. I was praying that he didn’t make it. We fought so hard, so it was kind of like one of those ‘he can’t make it.’ But he missed. So we got the win.”

A win they couldn’t afford to not come away with against a team that had lost 11 of 12 and was without starting center Cody Zeller and backup Miles Plumlee.

“We needed this one,” Harris said. “If you really look at it, this is our push, right now. We need every one we can get. That’s why tonight, it’s enjoyable because we never gave up. We kept pushing. We kept grinding.”

FAST BREAKDOWN

Three quick observations from Thursday night’s 114-108 overtime win over the Charlotte Hornets at The Palace

SLAM DUNK – By any means necessary. That’s the way the NBA works at this time of year. With 25 games left coming out of the All-Star break and needing every notch on their belt the Pistons can score, Stan Van Gundy mixed and matched lineups all night before coming up with something that worked in the fourth quarter. The Pistons erased Charlotte’s 18-point lead late in the third quarter to force overtime as Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored their last 11 points, including the tying triple with 18 seconds left. The Pistons survived Marco Belinelli’s shot at the buzzer to force overtime and then dominated in OT. Caldwell-Pope’s triple with 55 seconds left clinched it, giving the Pistons a 110-102 lead. Charlotte scored on just one of its first seven overtime possessions as the Pistons held the Hornets to 46 points in 29 minutes after halftime after allowing 62 in the first two quarters.Van Gundy started rejiggering his lineup when Charlotte took its 18-point lead late in the third quarter. Aron Baynes sat the entire first half, but helped the Pistons slice the 18-point deficit to 10 when he exited early in the fourth quarter. Reggie Bullock sat for three quarters but started the fourth and helped a bench unit that made it anyone’s game in the last five minutes. Caldwell-Pope finished with 33 points and nine rebounds. Ish Smith, who played the final 22 minutes, finished with five points, six rebounds and 16 assists. Kemba Walker scored 34 for Charlotte.

FREE THROW – Free throws and second-chance points – the free throws Charlotte made and the second-chance points the Pistons failed to score – were the main underlying causes for the Pistons finding themselves trailing by double digits for much of the game. With Charlotte missing starting center Cody Zeller and backup Miles Plumlee, one area where the Pistons likely expected to dominate was offensive rebounding and second-chance points. It didn’t pan out that way. The first Pistons second-chance points came with eight minutes left in the third quarter. When they fought their way back, it was thanks in part to the 12 second-chance points they scored after halftime. Charlotte outscored the Pistons at the free-throw line 18-4 in the first half, shooting 19 free throws to four for Detroit. The Hornets hit 25 of 26 for the game, but the Pistons at least limited them to seven attempts in the final 29 minutes. And the Pistons also shot well at the line, hitting 11 of 12. They wound up outrebounding Charlotte 57-50, holding a 20-14 margin in the fourth quarter and overtime.

3-POINTER – After the DeMarcus Cousins deal got done to cap All-Star weekend, the NBA trade deadline was mostly a series of end-of-the-rotation deals made by contenders looking for an extra piece for a playoff push or an extended postseason run. The Pistons aggressively exchanged ideas with a number of teams, but Stan Van Gundy said he’d expected for a while that they would eventually take a pass. “I’ve pretty well known that for quite a while,” he said. “We didn’t really expect anything to happen. That’s been my approach. With the players, you sort of have to let it run its course. Not a whole lot you can say to them because you don’t know for sure what’s going to happen. Hopefully, we can get everybody’s head focused on making a good run in these last 25 (games).” Of the handful of teams competing with the Pistons, the most significant deal was generated by Chicago, which sent Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott to Oklahoma City deal and got back Cameron Payne, Joffrey Lauvergne and Anthony Morrow. Though Payne was a 2015 lottery pick and could blossom into a quality point guard, it’s tough to see that deal being beneficial to the Bulls in the short term. Gibson, in particularly, has bedeviled the Pistons.

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