Pistons stage huge rally in 4th quarter, win in OT
Auburn Hills — In the fourth quarter, it looked to be a carbon copy of a familiar script for the Pistons this season: take a double-digit lead, squander it and take another loss.
In the last few minutes of regulation, things went off script — including an 18-0 run and a pair of tying free throws for Andre Drummond.
It was an unusual end to a performance that needed an extra act, as the Pistons took an improbable 127-122 overtime victory over the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday night at The Palace.
It’s the second straight win for the Pistons (10-9), who trailed by as many as 16 points with just over eight minutes left in regulation.
Then things started to click.
After allowing the Suns to shoot 67 percent in the third quarter, the Pistons buckled down on defense and started to get some stops and followed them up with baskets.
“We decided to care. I can’t pinpoint it. Everybody just turned it on and decided to care,” said Reggie Jackson, who scored 18 of his 34 points in the fourth quarter and overtime. “It shows we have resolve — we don’t want to lose — but it shows a problem of ours that we’ve been having throughout this season.”
The issue is finishing games with effort and energy, which has plagued them through a 10-9 start. But in the fourth quarter, things started to click, as they shot 73 percent (11-of-15), including 4-of-5 on 3-pointers, and made 6 of 9 free throws.
But coach Stan Van Gundy said the biggest difference was defense.
“What we were searching for was a defensive scheme that would work with a total lack of effort — and we couldn’t find one,” Van Gundy said. “We just went back to our normal stuff and guys played hard, which is usually the adjustment you need to make.
“Try — really give an effort — that’s usually the adjustment you need to make.”
Jackson was the catalyst down the stretch, but it might not have mattered if Drummond — who was hitting 38 percent on free throws this season — hadn’t converted a pair to tie the game after being intentionally fouled with 14.3 seconds left.
That tied the game at 112, after the Suns’ Brandon Knight (22 points) had hit a go-ahead 3-pointer with 30.7 seconds remaining.
“A whole different type of focus came over me and everybody who knows me knows I don’t like to lose,” said Drummond, who had 22 points and 12 rebounds, for his 17 double-double this season. “A whole different mindset and focus at the line took over and I just took my time and made the shots.”
Jackson scored the Pistons’ first six points of overtime, part of an 8-1 run, with a jumper by Marcus Morris (24 points and career-high 14 rebounds), who played 42 minutes despite a sore back. The Pistons led by seven with 2:10 left after a jumper by Kentavious Caldwell-Pope but the Suns answered with a triple by Knight and a lay-in by T.J. Warren to cut the lead to two.
Jackson added another pair of free throws for a 124-120 lead and Knight answered with a jumper to cut the deficit to two, but the Suns didn’t score again, as Morris put it away with three of four free throws in the final 10 seconds.
After starting the fourth quarter with a 92-80 deficit, the Pistons were almost put away. Phoenix started with another 9-2 spurt to lead by 16 — their largest of the game — and looked to be in control.
Stanley Johnson added a triple and T.J. Warren hit a layup, but the Pistons mounted a comeback, behind Jackson, Drummond and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. They erased a 15-point deficit with 7:21 left and used an 18-0 run to steamroll ahead, 107-104, after a drive by Jackson with 1:47 remaining.
Jackson had 10 total points in the rally, including two triples. Caldwell-Pope split a pair of free throws and added a 3-pointer and Drummond had back-to-back baskets.
“We couldn’t stop anybody,” Suns coach Jeff Hornacek said. “Reggie Jackson’s a good player (but) that’s twice (this season) that he’s just dominated in the fourth quarter.
“We just kind of let them go right through there, no resistance. If you really want to win the game, you buckle up and get a stop.”
The Suns ended their drought with a triple by Mirza Teletovic (18 points) at the 1:20 mark, tying it at 1:07.
Drummond converted on an alley-oop from Jackson but Leuer answered with a dunk on the other end, keeping it knotted.
Ilyasova looked to give the Pistons an advantage after getting fouled on a 3-point attempt with 38.9 seconds remaining and the score tied, but he missed the first two tries before hitting the third, for a one-point lead.
Knight answered with a 3-pointer with 30.7 seconds left for a two-point lead. After Ilyasova missed a potential go-ahead triple, the Suns got the rebound and called a timeout. A turnover gave the ball back to the Pistons and the Suns intentionally fouled Drummond, who made both free throws, tying it at 112.