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Despite momentous hurdle, Pistons remain defiant

James Hawkins
The Detroit News

Auburn Hills — There have been 118 teams who have tried, and all have failed.

Throughout NBA playoff history, no team has ever come back to win a best-of-seven series after trailing 3-0.

But the Pistons aren’t looking to become exhibit No. 119 come Sunday night’s Game 4 showdown with the top-seeded Cavaliers.

“I just told them that tomorrow is going to be a real test of their mental toughness,” coach Stan Van Gundy said. “It’s tough at 0-3 and when you get into the game it’ll be tough. When Cleveland makes a run, are you going to stay the course?

“I have not been in this situation, but I’ve been on the other side of it. I’ve seen teams that give a good effort and then you make a run on them and you get them down a little and they sort of go away because there’s not a great belief that they can still win the series and they let it go. That’s what we’re fighting against.”

The Pistons are also battling insurmountable odds. According to ESPN Basketball Power Index, the Pistons have a 1 percent chance to win the series

Coupled that with the fact that LeBron James’ teams have won 16 consecutive first-round games — and is on the verge of recording a fourth straight first-round sweep – it seems like all hope is lost.

But that’s not the case, the Pistons said.

Five keys to Pistons’ win in Game 4

“There’s no reason why anybody in our locker room should believe we can’t beat these guys,” forward Anthony Tolliver said. “We’ve done it in the regular season — obviously we haven’t done it in the postseason yet — but we have everything we need.”

The Pistons have proven that twice so far in the series, taking the Cavaliers down to the wire in Game 1 and 3 before coming up short.

“It’s not like they’ve been close because they’ve been on an off-night. I honestly feel like we’ve gotten them at their best for the whole series,” Van Gundy said. “For much of it, we’ve stayed competitive. When you’re in games like we’ve been in Game 1 and Game 3, a game comes down to four, five, six plays and we haven’t been able to make those and they have, whether it’s an open three they make and we miss.”

In Friday’s 101-91 heartbreaker, the Pistons had their chances following Kentavious Caldwell-Pope’s fast-break dunk over James that made it 92-90 with 3:56 to go.

Caldwell-Pope missed an open 3-pointer at the 2:32 mark and Reggie Jackson couldn’t convert a pair of contested shots before Cavaliers’ Kyrie Irving drained a 3-pointer from the left corner with 0.7 seconds on the shot clock off a cross-court inbounds pass from Matthew Dellavedova to make it an eight-point game with 43 seconds remaining.

“Our team, we’re fighting every game. We’re in a dogfight every game,” Caldwell-Pope said. “We got to continue to have that fight in us and try to finish it out.”

Come Sunday, the Pistons will look to keep that fight alive for another night — and take the first step toward bucking the trend.

“If anybody on that team comes up here and says it’s a comfortable win and they feel good each and every night they go home and rest their head like they don’t have to worry about us, I think that’s a damn lie,” Jackson said. “We’re coming out and we’re down 0-3. Somebody has to be the team to come back from it so we’re confident.

“Somebody has to be the anomaly, why not us?”

Twitter: @jamesbhawkins