Pistons survive and escape Hornets on Boban’s big night
Chris Schwegler (NBAE/Getty)
AUBURN HILLS – The Pistons know the feeling of trying to get a rebound when Boban Marjanovic is around.
“He does that same stuff in practice,” Marcus Morris said after Marjanovic put the Pistons in position to win a game they would – barely – by scoring 15 points and grabbing 19 rebounds in a magnificent pinch-hitting role. “It’s impossible to block him out, practically. He’s got his hands up and we’re just swinging at the ball. That’s exactly what I saw out there tonight.”
That’s also exactly the image the Pistons have struck for the past few weeks – flailing away to catch an elusive target that keeps moving around on them with opponents bedeviling them by playing keep-away. They’d lost 8 of 10 games prior to surviving Charlotte’s rally and now face a five-game West Coast road trip.
Yeah, they needed that win. And they needed all of Marjanovic’s points and every one of his rebounds because the 44 points they gave up to Charlotte in the fourth quarter devoured all of their margin for error. The 115-114 win wasn’t secure until an NBA replay review of Marco Belinelli’s buzzer 3-pointer – banked in, no less – determined that the shot came off of his hand a fraction of a second late.
Reggie Jackson’s free throws with 1.9 seconds left broke a 113-all tie – the Pistons never trailed and led by 19 points with 9:54 to go; Charlotte scored 42 points in the last 10 minutes – and Jackson then batted a pass out of bounds with 0.5 seconds left. Belinelli was designated to inbound the ball for Charlotte on the sideline across from the Pistons’ bench. When Morris turned his back to him, Belinelli intentionally bounced it off of Morris’ back, caught the rebound and launched his shot.
“I turned around so he could think he could do something like that,” Morris said. “Point-five, there’s no way you can throw it off and then catch and he did exactly what I thought he would do. Kind of baited him into it. I was actually guarding the dude, but I had the feeling that he could do that or he might think about doing it and he did it.”
Morris, mired in a streak of low productivity, still had little luck shooting, though he managed 20 points on 5 of 15 shooting by hitting 3 of 6 triples and 7 of 8 free throws. But Morris came out aggressively on defense and grabbed 10 rebounds after averaging 2.3 over his past nine games. Jackson finished with 22 points and 11 assists and scored a dozen after returning with 7:26 to play to help the Pistons from getting buried by Kemba Walker’s 20 fourth-quarter points. And Tobias Harris was supremely productive again off the bench, leading the Pistons with 25 points.
But it’s got to be Big Boban on top of the marquee with his 15 points and 19 boards, including 9 of 11 free throws, delighting not only his teammates but the crowd, as well.
“They give me energy,” he said of the fans. “They help give me stronger focus and I’m happy for that. I try to do everything that we do in practice and show that on the court.”
The Pistons needed Marjanovic because Aron Baynes missed a second straight game with a sprained ankle and Andre Drummond (16 points, nine rebounds) picked up two quick fouls in each half and played just 25 minutes.
“He was great, tremendous,” Stan Van Gundy said of the 7-foot-4 Serbian signed as a free agent after one NBA season spent in San Antonio. “Great, great, great effort. Probably the biggest reason that game got close is I took him out for a rest and then it got late and I didn’t go back to him. I should’ve just left him in, as tired as he was, and, probably, game would’ve been over.”
Van Gundy said Wednesday, after Marjanovic held up well in his first shot at rotation minutes with Baynes out, that they urge him to be less unselfish and look to be more of a scorer. He’s got a feathery touch, as his foul shooting attests, to go with huge hands and incredible length. Though the Pistons are ably staffed at center with Drummond and Baynes, Van Gundy said Marjanovic has given him another viable option.
“He certainly was great tonight, so he certainly made a case for himself, that’s for sure,” Van Gundy said.
“He was phenomenal,” Jackson said. “Amazing. What he did was special. Hats off to the performance that he had and the energy he brought, just the dynamic that he brought to the game.”
Van Gundy’s brow was furrowed after the Pistons almost catastrophically squandered a 19-point lead in 10 minutes, but as tarnished as the win might have seemed a loss would have been devastating – especially with the 10-day road trip that starts Friday looming.
“Aw, man, we needed it. We needed it,” Morris said. “(Forty-four) points is inexcusable, but we go back, we see what we did wrong. We played three quarters hard. At the same time, we got the W.”