Pistons dial long distance to top Heat
Miami — Maybe it’s better if the Pistons just play and don’t pay attention to what’s going on around them.
They’ve been doing just fine in their own little bubble.
Point guard Reggie Jackson said he didn’t know they had a win streak going.
The Pistons did know, however, that they dug themselves into an 18-point deficit in the second quarter and were on the verge of the Miami Heat running them out of American Airlines Arena.
Then the bench happened.
And a barrage of 3-pointers.
The reserves helped erase the lead and the Pistons held on in the final seconds for a 93-92 win over the Heat on Tuesday night. It’s the third straight victory for the Pistons (17-12), who hit 15 3-pointers in the game, one off their season high.
Reserves Stanley Johnson (four), Steve Blake (four) and Anthony Tolliver combined to go 11-of-17 on 3-pointers and connected on their first seven in the first and second quarters.
“(The bench) is the only reason we were where we were at halftime,” coach Stan Van Gundy said. “Without them, that’s a blowout game and we’re warming up the bus at the half.”
Johnson finished with 14 points and Jackson 18 points and five rebounds for the Pistons, who have three winning streaks of three games or more this season; after only having two such streaks last season.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope shot 5-of-13 but hit three jumpers in the final three minutes, including the go-ahead score with 55.5 seconds left.
“My shot wasn’t going in but I didn’t stop shooting,” Caldwell-Pope said. “Every time I had a great look, I took the shot. Down the stretch in the fourth, I had two open shots that I took and I knocked them down.”
Chris Bosh (20 points) missed a jumper with 31.9 seconds remaining and Dwyane Wade (19 points) missed another potential go-ahead shot with 2.9 seconds left. The Heat fouled Andre Drummond, who missed both free throws, setting up Bosh’s last attempt at the buzzer.
The Pistons escaped with the win, their third straight over the Heat, and vaulted into the sixth seed, just a half game out of the second-best record in the Eastern Conference.
It was another gut-check win, something becoming more common for the young group that has learned from taking its lumps last season.
“We’re too young and dumb to panic,” Jackson said. “The elder statesmen have been here before. If anything happens, the rest of us are too young and dumb.
“We have a never-say-die attitude and always think we can find a way. We believe we’re talented enough to find a way to battle back in and lock in defensively.”
The Pistons fell behind by double digits after committing nine turnovers in the first quarter. The Heat used a 13-5 spurt midway through the period to take a 25-14 lead and finished with another 9-3 run to make it 34-18 entering the second.
Beno Udrih, who started for the injured Goran Dragic, had a pair of baskets during the run and finished with 14 points and six assists.
Miami extended the lead early in the second, with a 3-pointer by Bosh for a 37-19 advantage at the 11:25 mark.
Then the Pistons got hot from 3-point range.
Blake hit a 3-pointer, then after a Heat basket, the long-distance onslaught continued, with back-to-back 3-pointers from Tolliver and Blake.
Johnson followed with two more — to go with his pair in the first quarter — and the Pistons bench had hit seven straight from long range. That 15-2 spurt cut the Heat’s lead to 40-34. After a dunk by Bosh, another 3-pointer by Caldwell-Pope (14 points) made it a four-point game.
The Pistons finished the second quarter with a 10-2 run and erased their big deficit for a 54-52 lead at halftime. Morris had back-to-back baskets and Jackson had a pair of drives, including the go-ahead score with 0.5 seconds left.
The teams traded baskets in the third quarter, but the Pistons moved ahead with five straight points, on a floater by Jackson, a basket by Ersan Ilyasova and a free throw from Marcus Morris.
But the Heat got nine straight points — seven by Bosh — before Drummond (11 points, 12 rebounds) converted a hook with 14 seconds left to cut Miami’s lead to 75-72 after three quarters.
In the fourth quarter, the Heat pushed the lead to seven with consecutive baskets by Hassan Whiteside (16 points, 16 rebounds) and Josh Richardson.
The Pistons rallied — with the bench again hitting 3-pointers — to chip away at the deficit. Blake hit two more 3-pointers, along with one by Tolliver, and a hook by Drummond cut the lead to two. The Pistons moved ahead on two straight jumpers by Caldwell-Pope — the second a 3-pointer — to make it 91-89 at the 2:02 mark.
It’s been a point of emphasis this season — shooting their open shots — that has become the mantra for the Pistons.
“I don’t worry too much when they’re missing but when they start hesitating, then I’m worried because I know they’re losing confidence,” Van Gundy said. “That rarely happens with KCP.”
The Heat answered with a free throw from Wade and a dunk by Whiteside, to take a one-point lead.
But Caldwell-Pope gave the Pistons the lead with 55.5 seconds left.