Pistons let lead slip to Clippers, lose 3rd straight
Los Angeles — Two days of practice seem to have paid huge dividends.
After a semi-extended break between games on the six-game west-coast trip, the Pistons came out with more energy, better passing and an overall improved effort over Wednesday’s loss at the Sacramento Kings.
But the result didn’t match the effort, as the Los Angeles Clippers rallied from a 17-point second-quarter deficit and snatched a 101-96 victory on Saturday afternoon before a sellout crowd of 19, 060 at Staples Center.
The loss is the third straight for the Pistons (5-4), who started the road trip with a pair of wins at Phoenix and Portland. They’ll try to salvage a .500 road trip with a win over the Lakers on Sunday night at Staples Center.
“We dropped three in a row; it’s starting to get normal,” said point guard Reggie Jackson, who had 20 points, six rebounds and five assists. “You’ve got to just find a way to get a win.”
Ersan Ilyasova added 20 points and Andre Drummond had his ninth double-double in as many games, with 18 points and 19 rebounds.
The Clippers were without starters Chris Paul (groin) and J.J. Redick (back spasms) for the second straight game. Jamal Crawford was dazzling in the starting lineup, with 37 points, and Blake Griffin added 34 points, eight rebounds and nine assists.
The Pistons got within one in the final minute but Crawford hit four free throws in the final 7.3 seconds and the Pistons didn’t have an answer.
“(Crawford) played great and I should have been able to come up with something that would have made it a little tougher,” Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy said. “We’ve seen (his scoring) for years in this league. You know when those guys are out, it was going to be Crawford and Blake Griffin — that wasn’t hard to figure out.”
The pair combined for 43 of the Clippers’ 50 points and shot a combined 16-of-33 (48 percent) in the second half. The only other player with a field goal in the fourth quarter was Austin Rivers, who hit the 3-pointer that put the Clippers ahead for good, 93-90, with 2:36 remaining.
After Ilyasova hit a pair of free throws to cut the lead to one, Griffin added a drive. Drummond hit two free throws with 53.3 seconds left to cut the deficit to 95-94 but Griffin answered with clutch jumper with 17.9 seconds left to make it a three-point lead. The shot came after Griffin hustled to save a loose rebound and knocked it off Ilyasova out of bounds, to retain possession.
Jackson followed with two free throws and Crawford finished the game by making four straight from the free-throw line.
“You take positives and negatives and try to learn from the experience. We had control and we just didn’t finish it,” Jackson said. “They just found a way to get hot; we got stops early and we have to find a way to continue to get stops.”
The Pistons darted out to an early lead, behind Ilyasova and Jackson, who combined for their first 16 points — eight each — before Drummond hit a hook for an 18-10 advantage. Ilyasova and Jackson each had a pair of 3-pointers, as the Pistons started 10-of-12 from the field, including 5-of-6 on triples.
Ilyasova hit another triple and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope hit a free throw after a technical foul on Clippers coach Doc Rivers, extending the lead to 25-15.
The Clippers (6-4) answered with a 10-1 run, as the Pistons missed eight straight field goals, and cut the lead to 26-25, before Drummond dunked with 15.3 seconds left, for a three-point lead to finish the quarter.
Stanley Johnson and Anthony Tolliver started a second-quarter surge, where the Pistons started on an 18-2 run, with nine points from Johnson and five from Tolliver. But the Clippers chipped away at the lead — with nine points from Crawford — and got it to 60-51 at halftime.
The 60 points were the most by the Pistons in a first half this season but Crawford just got cooking in the first half, with 17 points.
“I believed that we could come back from a big deficit in the first half,” said Crawford, who was 10-of-10 from the free-throw line. “The NBA is a game of runs and it’s a long game.”
The 37 points for Crawford, a former Michigan standout, were the most since he had 37 against the Toronto Raptors on Jan. 25, 2014. At 35, Crawford showed that he can turn back the clock, when needed.
“Jamal is a great scorer…we knew it was in him,” Doc Rivers said. “It is not like he forgot how to play.”