Pistons nip Heat with furious Jackson-led rally

By Geoff Robinson, Special to The Detroit News
Reggie Jackson tries to create space against the Heat on Saturday night.

Auburn Hills — It looked like it was going to be a typical Pistons performance. A fast start had given way to a 15-point deficit in the fourth quarter and the Pistons found themselves on the brink of being officially eliminated from playoff contention.

That's when Reggie Jackson went crazy.

The Pistons point guard led a fast break after a long tip-out from Tayshaun Prince and drove to the glass where he hit the winning layup with five seconds remaining to close out a 29-point performance and lead the Pistons to a 99-98 comeback win.

Dwyane Wade, who finished with 24 points, had one final shot from the top of key to give Miami the win, but it clanked off the rim and into the hands of Andre Drummond as the buzzer sounded.

"My staff was saying that it's the best win of the year," Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy said. "To me, all 30 have been. When you don't have that many, you learn to savor them."

The Heat took an 81-72 lead into the fourth quarter and had built a 93-78 lead with seven minutes left.

Jackson scored 15 points in the final quarter and the Pistons' slim playoff hopes live on for at least one more day.

"He took over," Drummond said of Jackson. "I talked to him throughout the game. He was a little down and I grabbed him in the fourth quarter and was like, 'Let's get yourself going and take your time and play your game. We need you to play.' The last couple minutes, he got himself going and got that game-winning layup."

The Pistons opened the game hitting their first seven shots. They cooled off significantly, going 4-for-13 to finish the first quarter, and took a 29-24 lead into the second quarter.

That's when Wade and Goran Dragic started cooking. The duo powered the Heat to a 20-4 run in the second quarter. Wade had 13 second-quarter points, and Dragic, who was held scoreless in the first quarter, put up 12 as the Heat took a 55-50 lead into halftime.

The Pistons used 3-point shooting to stay close as the teams went back-and-forth in the third quarter. They went 4-for-7 from long range in the quarter, and got three long balls from Anthony Tolliver, who finished with 15 points on 5-for-9 shooting from distance.

The turning point seemingly came when Wade drove to the rim and threw down a monstrous dunk in traffic to put the Heat up 74-71 in the midst of a 9-1 run to end the third quarter.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (19 points) tried to answer with a big jam of his own on a beautiful drive to the rim, but he bounced it off the rim so hard that it went flying into the Heat bench and out of bounds.

Drummond had 11 points and grabbed 17 rebounds, while the rest of the Pistons grabbed 16 total boards.

Dragic finished with 21 points and seven assists for the Heat, who were passed up by Boston for the eighth and final playoff spot.

The Pistons are now 4-1/2 games behind the Heat and five games behind Boston with five games remaining.

Being "the guy"

After last night's tough loss in Chicago, Van Gundy pulled Jackson into his office and had a talk with the young point guard about what it really meant to be the leader of a team.

"We had a talk last night about him wanting the opportunity to be "the guy," Van Gundy said. "Well, 'the guy' can't be tired.

"Those guys play 36 to 38 minutes every night and have the ball in their hands every play. They have to make every play. They've got to take the responsibility. I thought (Jackson) stepped up and was not the least bit afraid to take the game on his shoulders tonight."

Jackson has struggled to be the leader Van Gundy wants him to be at times, but with the responsibility of being the Pistons point guard of the future on his shoulders, he knows he's got to come up big in big situations.

"I put the most pressure on myself. I hold myself to such a high standard," Jackson said.

"I don't think anybody can put any more pressure on myself than I do. It's just great to have voices in your ear reminding you that this is something you've asked for. If this is what you want, there's a lot of responsibility that comes with that. You've just got to man up."

Geoff Robinson is a freelance writer.