Pacers 3-point barrage erases 22-point Pistons lead in crushing loss
Gary Dineen (NBAE/Getty)
INDIANAPOLIS – The whiteboard inside the Pistons locker room boiled their loss down to its twisted, searing essentials: “76-54” it read on one line, “24-53” immediately below it, with “19:00” underlined alongside of it and then, underneath it all, “next 3 possessions.”
The Pistons led by 22 points just past the mid-point of the third quarter after a 20-2 run all but ran the Pacers out of their own building. But on those “next 3 possessions,” here’s what happened: Victor Oladipo hit a pull-up triple in transition, Bojan Bogdanovic hit another transition triple and then Bogdanovic hit another transition three.
Momentum turned just that quickly. The Pacers hit 11 of 16 from the 3-point arc in the second half and even if the Pistons’ transition defense was “horrendous” – Stan Van Gundy’s characterization – it’s tough to shoot 69 percent from the 3-point line in an empty gym.
In another era, you could say the Pistons got fat and sassy with a 22-point lead, but with the 3-point shot gaining greater prominence season over season it simply doesn’t surprise anyone any longer to see such a dramatic turnaround. The Pistons got outscored by that 53-24 margin over the game’s final 17-plus minutes, not quite the 19:00 the anonymous whiteboard author recorded, but such turnarounds are no longer the aberration.
Still, Anthony Tolliver – along with the rest of Van Gundy’s bench unit, responsible for building an 11-point halftime lead – felt the Pistons squandered an opportunity by pausing to catch their breath when they had the home team on the ropes.
“It’s human nature, unfortunately, but you have to fight your nature,” he said.” ‘Oh, yeah, we’re up 22, so one three’s not going to hurt us.’ But then they get another one, then they get another one, now they’ve got a little momentum and they feel a little bit better about themselves. They’re down 22 – you’ve got to stomp on ’em.”
With the Pacers throwing 3-point haymakers, their defense was correspondingly energized. The Pistons became stagnant offensively and wound up settling for too many contested jump shots late in the shot clock that only served to fuel more transition scoring chances for the Pacers.
“When they came back and hit back to back to back threes in transition, you could kind of feel momentum change,” Reggie Jackson glumly observed in a solemn locker room. “Their ability to keep the ball alive, get second-chance opportunities … we didn’t finish it out, all 48 minutes.”
“They flattened us out the last 18 minutes of the game,” Van Gundy said. “We were up 76-54, so we only scored 24 points in the last 18 minutes. They just had us flattened out, going one on one. Wasn’t good.”
The loss makes the Pistons 0-2 on a three-game road trip that concludes Sunday at Minnesota. It’s the first time this season they’ve lost consecutive games and the Pistons are now 10-5.
Among those 10 wins were five in which the Pistons came back from double digits.
“It’s the NBA. That’s what people have to start understanding,” Van Gundy said. “It happens every night. Cleveland did it at New York in the fourth quarter. It’s all the time now.”
But it’s the first time this season it’s happened to his team and now comes what he knew was coming at some point – the first run of adversity to confront the Pistons.
“We’ve been on the other side of this several times this year, so this is one of the first signs of adversity for us,” Tolliver said. “Losing two in a row, losing this one like we did. It’ll be a good test of our character to see how we respond next game.”