Pistons rally, let late lead slip away and fall in OT for crushing 6th straight loss

Andre Drummond had a big game and a great fourth quarter but the Pistons lost their sixth straight game as Utah won in overtime.
Chris Schwegler/NBAE/Getty Images
by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

DETROIT – All-Star? They ought to bypass the All-Star game and just grant Andre Drummond Hall of Fame status after what he did against Utah: 30 points, 24 rebounds, four assists, six blocked shots and three steals.

The last time somebody did that was … never. They’ve only been keeping track of things other than points and rebounds with precision since 1973-74 and Drummond is the only player in recorded history to put up such numbers.

And still it wasn’t enough.

That’s what happens when the four other starters shoot 14 of 47. Or when the Pistons turn the ball over 20 times, shoot 9 of 47 outside the paint and get so little from the two players who have to be their primary scorers while Reggie Jackson is idled, Tobias Harris and Avery Bradley.

“When you want to win that bad, you’re willing to do whatever,” Drummond said after the overtime loss, the sixth straight defeat as the Pistons fell to 3-10 without Jackson. “I don’t even care about the stat line.”

The stats were going to be ugly, Drummond’s aside, no matter how the game turned out. But deep into the fourth quarter, Drummond put together his most dazzling stretch of the night. Over the span of 100 seconds – from 4:57 left, when the Pistons trailed by a point, to 3:17, when they led by nine – Drummond was at the center of everything.

First he split a pair of free throws to tie the game. Then he grabbed a defensive rebound at one end and dunked at the other off of a fine set-up by Stanley Johnson. Next came a clean strip of Jazz rookie Donovan Mitchell in the open floor finished with a breakaway dunk to put the Pistons ahead by four. He contested Mitchell’s missed runner at Utah’s end and grabbed Ish Smith’s missed layup and converted in the next sequence to make it a six-point lead. Then he made a marvelous block of Rudy Gobert’s dunk attempt to spring a Pistons fast break that culminated in a Tobias Harris 3-point shot.

For as difficult as everything proved to be for the Pistons all night, they suddenly had a nine-point lead – the biggest for either team all night – with just over three minutes to play.

The thought running through everyone’s mind at that point: For as frustrating as the night had been, the Pistons were going to snap their losing skid, escape with a win and get back to .500.

“I thought so,” Harris said. “They kept chipping and we didn’t convert offensively, so they were able to tie it up at the end of regulation.”

The triple was Harris’ only 3-pointer of the game in five tries. Bradley was 0 for 4. Stanley Johnson, starting for the injured Reggie Bullock, made his first and missed his last six. And Harris’ triple was the last basket the Pistons made in regulation. Joe Ingles tied it for Utah on a layup off an inbounds play with 4.5 seconds to play and Luke Kennard’s clean look from the 3-point arc at the buzzer missed, as well.

“We stayed with what we thought was our best defensive lineup other than (Anthony Tolliver) for Tobias and thought we could get the stops to win it,” Stan Van Gundy said. “But we didn’t get a bucket. It’s going to be hard to shut people out.”

Van Gundy tried to jump start an offense that ranks 28th in the NBA without Jackson by inserting Langston Galloway into the starting lineup for Ish Smith. But nothing worked and he found himself at a loss to dial up plays when nobody besides Drummond could put the ball in the basket.

“Who are you going to go to? Andre had a good night. (Tolliver) went 2 for 3 (from the 3-point line). Our centers played well offensively. And other than that, everybody else struggled. Offensively, you need a bucket to close it out and we couldn’t get one.”

Harris finished with 13 points, shooting 6 of 17. Bradley – though he was outstanding in defending Mitchell – was even quieter, finishing with six points on 3 of 11 shooting.

“It’s tough. That’s part of their responsibility and they know it,” Tolliver said. “They know they have a lot on their shoulders and we depend on them every night. Same thing with Andre. He was great tonight and kept us in the game. But that’s a part of it. Whenever you have huge responsibility, you’ve got to be able to do it. As his teammates, we’re going to do whatever we can to support and try to help and get wins. We had some guys struggling offensively and just couldn’t figure out a way to get a win.”

FAST BREAKDOWN

Three quick observations from Sunday night’s 121-104 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena

1-FOURTH-QUARTER FIZZLE – Against the NBA’s worst defensive team – yup, that’s what Cleveland is overall this season and by an even more pronounced margin over the past month – the Pistons, ranked 28th on offense since Reggie Jackson’s injury, didn’t have much trouble generating points for three quarters. They’d amassed 87 points to that point, scoring 28, 33 and 26 points by quarter. But the Cavs showed they can still turn it up when they need to, holding the Pistons to 17 fourth-quarter points. It was tied at 95 four minutes into the quarter when Cleveland went on a 9-2 run to take a seven-point lead that the Pistons couldn’t get below four. It was a 26-9 run to close the game for the Cavs, who hit 15 of 35 from the 3-point line. Cleveland put little pressure on the ball and the Pistons only committed six turnovers, a season low, while racking up 31 assists, one off their season high. Cleveland, though struggling on the road, had won 15 of its last 17 at home almost exclusively on the strength of one of the league’s top offenses. That was also on display as the Cavs generated points in transition and did their usual damage from the 3-point arc with seven different players making at least one triple. Anthony Tolliver hit five first-half triples and finished with a season-high 20 points, one of five Pistons in double figures. Tolliver also added five assists, one of seven Pistons with at least three assists.

2-LINEUP SHUFFLE – With Avery Bradley unavailable after aggravating the groin injury that forced him to miss seven games last month and receive an injection 10 days ago, Stan Van Gundy rejiggered the lineup. Some of it likely would have happened anyway, largely the decision to start Anthony Tolliver and Tobias Harris at forward. Tolliver is the best matchup for Kevin Love, who has given the Pistons trouble dating to the 2015-16 season when the teams met in the playoffs. Ish Smith, after two games coming off the bench for Langston Galloway, was back in the starting lineup. Reggie Bullock replaced Bradley. The changes to the starting lineup triggered a few corresponding changes with the bench unit. Dwight Buycks again assumed backup duties, pushing Galloway out of the rotation, and Eric Moreland played over Boban Marjanovic as Andre Drummond’s backup.

3-A LITTLE BETTER – Tobias Harris has been in a deep 3-point shooting slump over the seven-game losing streak the Pistons carried into tipoff with Cleveland, shooting just 23 percent (8 of 35) over the seven games. He missed his first two at Cleveland before hitting an open corner three to put the Pistons ahead 40-37 about four minutes into the second quarter. On the next possession, though, Harris – in hustling after a loose ball that was already going to result in a Cleveland over-and-back turnover – was whistled for his third foul for apparently jostling Jeff Green in pursuit of the ball and also came up limping. Harris went to the locker room momentarily, then returned to the bench and received treatment for the injury. Harris came back to start the second half and missed two quick 3-pointers before making two in the third quarter and finishing 4 of 11 from the arc.

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