Memphis, Tenn. — The teams of Pistons past used to routinely walk into hostile environments to steal crucial road wins and it’s a lesson this version must conquer if there are to become good.
Simply put, one Piston from that era delivered the knockout punch where there were a few delivered — only he was on the other side.
Tayshaun Prince’s baseline 3-pointer with 2:19 left in overtime prevented the Pistons from ending an 18-game road losing streak against Western Conference opponents, as the Grizzlies stole one from the Pistons, 111-108, at FedEx Arena on Friday.
It was just Prince’s second field goal of the game, giving the Grizzlies a seven-point lead as he’d just checked back into the game, being no part of a Grizzlies comeback that saw Marc Gasol send the game into overtime by tipping in his own miss with 8.2 seconds left, evaporating what was a six-point Pistons lead in 1:08.
Before Chauncey Billups rolled around a screen to miss what would’ve been a winning 3-pointer at as time expired. Andre Drummond (12 points, 16 rebounds) touched a Josh Smith miss while the ball was coming off the cylinder but not yet off the rim, resulting in an offensive goaltending.
Billups also missed the front end of two free throws with 52 seconds left and the Pistons nursing a 94-90 lead, a rarity for a free-throw shooter who’s usually around 90 percent.
“We’ll get better,” Pistons coach Maurice Cheeks said. “I’ll take my chances with Chauncey anytime. He’s human. He’s usually good. Our overall effort was really good tonight.”
Once the game reached overtime, the Pistons’ defensive intensity, one where they were active as far as getting out in the passing lanes and disrupting the Grizzlies’ offense, couldn’t keep them down any longer, giving up 16 in the five-minute period.
Mike Conley led Memphis with 22 points, five rebounds and four assists. Zach Randolph overcame a slow start to finish with 16 points, 10 rebounds and no fouls — the latter of which got the attention of Greg Monroe after the game, considering it was so physical.
Monroe and Randolph went at it all night. Monroe had 16 points and eight rebounds, only taking 10 shots but playing one of his better defensive games.
“It was a good game, a fun game,” Cheeks said. “It was unfortunate in regulation. We missed a couple foul shots, wide open shots. But I told the guys, this was the Western Conference (finalists).”
The Pistons went down to Smith in overtime against 33-year old Mike Miller, but it didn’t bear the results the Pistons hoped for and Cheeks admitted the offense got stagnant down the stretch, but wasn’t deterred by the result.
Smith missed 16 of his 23 shots, but hit a key 3-pointer to give the Pistons what they thought was an insurmountable 94-88 lead with 1:08 remaining. They seemed to have solved the Grizzlies defense to that point, after trailing by 10 midway through the third, seemingly taking the air out of the arena.
“Sometimes when a guy gets in foul trouble, you try to get him a fifth or sixth foul…but I liked our game, I like the way we played,” Cheeks said.
The loss overshadowed a sterling performance from Rodney Stuckey, who made his debut with 19 points in 23 minutes, helping bring the Pistons back from early deficits. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope also didn’t back down, with 13 points in 18 minutes.
Stuckey was encouraged by the effort.
“Memphis went to the Western finals last year. It says we can compete with them,” Stuckey said.
“They didn’t bully us. We can compete with the best. Second game of the season, man. Learning experience.”
As for the Pistons’ 19-game losing streak on the road against Western Conference finalists, the Pistons coach issued a statement on his way out.
“It’s gonna end, I guarantee you,” Cheeks said with a smile.