Grizzlies stun Pistons again with last-second shot
Memphis — The odds of the Pistons losing to the Memphis Grizzlies on another wild, last-second shot weren’t quite as astronomical as those of winning the Powerball jackpot.
Whatever the improbability, it was a second breathtaking lightning strike this season, along with Matt Barnes’ go-ahead, half-court heave with 1.1 seconds remaining for an unlikely win on Dec. 9 at The Palace.
This time it was Mario Chalmers, who made an off-balance shot with 0.8 seconds left to lift the Grizzlies to a stunning, 103-101 victory over the Pistons on Thursday night at FedExForum.
Chalmers finished with 25 points, including the Grizzlies’ last seven of the game. On the final possession, he got to half-court and teammate Marc Gasol bumped him, jarring the ball loose. Chalmers scrambled for the ball and hurled it toward the basket as Aron Baynes tumbled into him. The shot counted, sending the Grizzlies fans into a frenzy.
Chalmers intentionally missed the free throw and the Pistons didn’t have a chance to get a last shot off.
“It was tough. He made the shot; I’ll give it to him,” Pistons rookie Stanley Johnson said. “The ball was on the ground and I thought there were similar plays like that the whole game. He made a heads-up play to pick it up and shoot it and he got the foul and the bucket.
“The half-court shot and that play, we made a lot of mistakes in both games prior to that — you can’t focus on that play.”
That the Pistons were even within a few points seemed to be a small victory. They faced their largest deficit, 86-73, with 10:26 left, following a 3-pointer by Barnes — who made all six of his 3-pointers, for 18 points — and a pair of free throws by Jeff Green, who scored 16 points.
The Pistons surged for a 23-2 run over the next 4:28, taking an eight-point lead with just under six minutes left.
Coach Stan Van Gundy lamented the 20 turnovers — including 10 in the sloppy second quarter — that helped dig the Pistons into a hole in the first place.
“The big problem tonight was 20 turnovers; we knew going in that’s the best thing about their defense and we didn’t handle the ball at all,” he said. “With 20 turnovers, you’re lucky you even had a chance to win.”
Johnson keyed the spurt, with 11 of his 19 points in the final period. He started with a 3-pointer and a steal and lay-in. Anthony Tolliver followed with a 3-pointer and Marcus Morris added a jumper to trim the lead to 86-83.
After Drummond was called for goaltending Chalmers’ shot, Johnson and Morris hit back-to-back 3-pointers for the Pistons’ first lead of the second half. Tolliver scored on a drive and Brandon Jennings got two free throws and a 3-pointer to cap the spurt.
The Grizzlies responded with a jumper by Gasol and another 3-pointer by Barnes. Memphis later closed to 98-96 after three straight points from Gasol, but Johnson connected on another 3-pointer from the top of the key to push the lead to five at the 3:08 mark.
From there, the Pistons came up empty on their last five possessions and Chalmers took over. He cut it to 101-98 on a drive and Jennings’ 3-point try rimmed out. Chalmers made all three free throws after being fouled on a 3-point try with 28.8 seconds left.
The Pistons had a chance to go ahead on their final possession, but Morris lost the ball on a drive, setting up Chalmers’ final shot.
“Certainly a crazy finish to a good game,” Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger said. “We were sitting there with the lead and I think we relaxed.”
It’s the second straight loss and the fourth in the last five road games for the Pistons, who next face the defending-champion Golden State Warriors on Saturday at The Palace.
The Pistons (21-18) had one of their sloppiest quarters of the season in the second period, but managed to stay close throughout the second half. They shot 50 percent from the field but went from a three-point lead to start the quarter, to a five-point deficit at halftime.
“Those (turnovers) catch up,” Van Gundy said. “(We shot) 50 percent but you’re giving away 20 possessions of zero (points). It’s terrible offense.”
In the third quarter, the Pistons closed within 55-52 after a 3-pointer by Ersan Ilyasova (17 points, nine rebounds). They were down two following a dunk by Andre Drummond (11 points, 11 rebounds) but Gasol had a three-point play and a hook to boost the lead back to six.
Johnson hit a 3-pointer with 9.9 seconds left in the third for an eight-point deficit entering the fourth.