Loss to Mavericks complicates Pistons' playoff drive
Auburn Hills — Things just got a little harder for the Pistons.
After a successful start to their home stand, this is not the way they wanted to end the stretch and hit the road.
Following a couple of close games in their five-game winning streak and two gutty wins in the last three, the Pistons finished their franchise-record nine-game home stand with a deflating, 98-89 loss to the Dallas Mavericks on Friday night at The Palace.
The Pistons (40-36) finished the home stand at 6-3 and head to Chicago for a showdown with the Bulls at the United Center on Saturday night. The loss trims the Pistons’ lead to 1-1/2 games over the ninth-place Bulls, who were idle, and a half-game over the Indiana Pacers, who hold the eighth and final playoff spot.
Marcus Morris scored 16 of his season-high 31 points in the first quarter and added 12 rebounds. Andre Drummond had 12 points and 17 rebounds.
Besides Morris, who went 12-of-17 from the field — including 6-of-8 on 3-pointers — the Pistons didn’t have very much offense. The rest of the team shot 19-of-64 (30 percent).
“I’m not at all (satisfied). We needed to get this one; we didn’t,” Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy said. “Now it’s going to be difficult; now we’re going to have to beat good teams on the road — and at home.”
The Pistons have only two games remaining at The Palace and their next three are on the road.
After Morris’ breakout first quarter, the Mavericks (38-38) jetted out to a 15-0 spurt to start the second period and put the Pistons on the ropes.
Dallas finished the quarter with a 9-3 spurt and led, 51-36, at halftime. The Pistons scored a season-low 11 points in the period and besides Morris’ 22, the Pistons managed just 4-of-21 (19 percent) shooting and the rest of the team totaled just 14 points.
“They outscored us 15-0 to start the second quarter,” Van Gundy said. “Our bench has played so well all year, especially lately. A lot of games, they’ve carried us and they couldn’t get anything going tonight, none of them.
“Our bench got obliterated tonight. They’ve actually been playing really, really well. Tonight was just a bad night for them.”
The Pistons starters rallied in the third quarter, with an 11-3 spurt, including four points by Reggie Jackson (11 points, 10 assists) and five points by Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (15 points) who ended the run with a 3-pointer, cutting the lead to 54-47 at the 7:55 mark.
The run extended to 20-4 with back-to-back 3-pointers by Jackson and Tobias Harris (14 points) and a putback by Drummond. Morris finished the streak with a 3-pointer — his fifth of the game — to tie it at 58 with 4:55 remaining in the quarter.
The Pistons got away from getting the ball to Morris and they never were able to regain the lead from there. Morris wasn’t frustrated by having the game get away, but knows the struggles are part of the growth process.
“We’re a team so at the end of the day, we need guys to take open shots. I’m not here to shoot the ball every time and even if I’m hot, I’m here to make the right plays,” said Morris, who had nine points in the second half. “There are times when I’m not shooting well and the ball has to continue to move, no matter who’s hot and who’s not.”
The Mavs answered with a fadeaway jumper by Dirk Nowitzki (19 points) and a reverse lay-in by Devin Harris. Wesley Matthews (17 points) hit 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions and Harris finished the quarter with another 3-pointer, pushing the lead to 71-61 entering the fourth.
In the fourth, Steve Blake opened with a 3-pointer but Harris hit consecutive baskets to push the lead back to 11. The Pistons’ final push was an 8-0 run, with corner 3-pointers by Stanley Johnson and Caldwell-Pope and a jumper by Morris, cutting the lead to 77-75 with 7:53 left.
Mavs guard J.J. Barea (29 points) was the catalyst to the win, hitting a 3-pointer, and after a technical foul on Blake — Nowitzki made the free throw — Barea pushed the lead to seven with another critical 3-pointer.
Barea had a hectic previous 24 hours, as he watched as his daughter was born and took a private flight to Detroit to join the team just before the game.
“He was tremendous and we’re all very happy for him, a baby daughter Paulina born — beautiful,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. “He has to be really happy and I think there was probably a little inspiration from seeing his daughter come into the world. It’s a great day.”
Harris hit a jumper and Barea answered with a jumper and after Jackson and Harris had back-to-back baskets, Matthews hit a jumper and Barea finished the deal with another jumper, sparking a 9-2 spurt that put the game away.
The Pistons’ focus shifted to the matchup with the Bulls, with a chance to create some more distance in the standings.
“Either way, we need it tomorrow,” Morris said. “Unfortunately, we can’t have this game tonight but either way, we need this tomorrow. It’s a big game, probably one of the biggest games this season.”