As Pistons endure another buzzer loss, Griffin first to have Rose’s back
Kent Smith (NBAE/Getty)
CHARLOTTE – Derrick Rose was showered and dressed before any of his teammates after Friday’s crushing loss at Charlotte. It was a loss cemented when Rose passed up a shot to hit Luke Kennard, who caught the ball as the clock was about to hit all zeroes, and now he wore a thousand-yard stare as he sat in the corner.
Blake Griffin, still with ice bags on his knees at the next dressing stall, got up, put his head next to Rose’s ear and spoke to him for a minute, Rose nodding as he listened.
Of everybody in Spectrum Center on Thanksgiving eve, that corner of the visitors locker room held the only two people who know what it’s like to have the ball in their hands with an NBA game on the line over and over again.
“I’m the same way,” Griffin said of Rose wearing the look of letting his teammates down. “You’re always in that moment and you feel like you could’ve done something different. It’s always hard to take. But I told him when we were sitting there, I’ll take the ball in his hands at the end of games 10 out of 10 times. Most of the time, he’s going to make the right decision.”
The Pistons waxed and waned all night at Charlotte, a place of haunting recent losses, one coming just 12 days ago. On that night, Rose had the ball in his hands for a final possession of a tie game, drove the lane and fired a pass to where he thought Langston Galloway would be – on the wing. Galloway, instead, had drifted to the corner and the pass sailed out of bounds, giving Charlotte just enough time for Malik Monk to drain a triple for the win at the buzzer.
This time, the Pistons got the ball back with 12.3 seconds left trailing by a point. Charlotte deflected an inbounds pass, peeling nearly three seconds off the clock for another sideline-out-of-bounds call. With 7.9 seconds left, Charlotte used a foul to give to stop the clock again.
“We tried to run a play,” Griffin said. “They smartly fouled us. They got a good look at what we were doing. I should’ve tried to call something else.”
Rose took the ball on the right side of the floor beyond the 3-point arc when the Pistons got it inbounded, took a few dribbles and then made his move to the middle with his left hand. After crossing the lane, he stopped and rose for what appeared would be a game-winning shot attempt. Instead, he passed to Kennard moving toward him from the left baseline. Kennard had no time to get in shooting position, the buzzer blaring as he received the pass.
“We ran the same play where I get it at the top,” Rose said. “It was just the spacing. Spacing was messed up. I just feel like I didn’t … you live and you learn. First year with the team. We’ll figure it out.”
Dwane Casey said the play’s action should have been initiated “a little bit quicker. Woulda, coulda, shoulda. We got the look we wanted – just go a little quicker. That comes from being together, understanding what we’re doing. I can’t fault anybody on that last play. Just go a little bit quicker. We were about to get what we wanted, but just a little bit sooner.”
The loss drops the Pistons to 6-12 with a return date with Charlotte at Little Caesars Arena on Friday looming.
“It’s part of the league, but the great thing about the league is we got another game Friday,” Rose said. “We got time to be with our family tomorrow and understand that Friday we got the same team, so we got a chance to correct all the errors and understand that this team thinks that they’ve got our number.”
The loss overshadowed Griffin’s 26-point outing, his highest of the season, in 31 minutes. Griffin’s triple with 42 seconds left pulled the Pistons within a point and they forced a missed 3-pointer from P.J. Washington on the ensuing possession to set up their shot at a game winner.
Griffin might have been the hero, but instead he stepped into the other role he fills so deftly for the Pistons: leader. He wasn’t going to let his teammates wallow in misery – or let Rose marinate in disappointment and self-recrimination.
“Tonight, we just put him in a bad position. We tried to have him bail us out and it didn’t work,” Griffin said. “But it happens like that. Sometimes you get a great play drawn up, you get a great look and you miss it. This last play didn’t define the game. It was our lack of putting a whole 48 together.”