Caldwell-Pope’s ‘great roll’ powers Pistons to win
Auburn Hills — The Pistons were quiet for the first three quarters Thursday, just like they were at the NBA trade deadline a few hours earlier.
Then something clicked, and the Pistons were able to come back from an 18-point second-half deficit to force overtime, then took control and beat the Hornets, 114-108 in their first game after the All-Star break.
Powered by Kentavious Caldwell-Pope’s 33 points, the Pistons carried the momentum they gained in the fourth quarter and outscored Charlotte 14-8 in the extra period.
Tobias Harris finished with 25 points off the bench, while Marcus Morris scored seven in overtime to lead the Pistons.
The Hornets, perhaps still in shock from witnessing the Pistons come back from the dead, weren’t able to find any offensive rhythm during overtime.
Caldwell-Pope scored the final 11 Pistons points of regulation as he and Kemba Walker staged a back-and-forth battle over the game’s last two minutes.
It was Caldwell-Pope’s 3-pointer with 18 seconds remaining that tied the score at 100.
“He got on a great roll when we needed it,” Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy said. “We played with great energy and intensity in the fourth quarter.”
On the final possession of regulation, Walker drove the lane and was met by a host of defenders. After he kicked the ball out, Marco Belinelli got a good look from behind the arc, but his shot came up short and the game went to overtime.
Ish Smith played a key role in the fourth-quarter comeback, dishing out 16 assists and getting heavy minutes down the stretch. Smith’s 16 assists were the most by a reserve player in the NBA over the last 12 years.
“They just played a lot better,” Van Gundy said of the Pistons bench. “Those guys kicked up our energy and our spirit.”
Reggie Jackson, long the center of trade talk surrounding the Pistons, was never able to get it going. He scored four points while shooting 1-for-6 and found himself on the bench in the game’s key moments.
The comeback started with the activity on the defensive end by the Pistons bench. The reserves started to fluster what was a high-flying Hornets offense through three quarters. It forced turnovers, shot-clock violations and bad shot selection en route to mounting a 15-2 run over a four-minute span in the fourth quarter.
“We just came in and tried to change the pace,” Harris said. “Be active and put a little more energy out there. It’s enjoyable because we kept pushing and grinding.”
Charlotte scored just 15 points in the fourth quarter.
“Guys off the bench came in and played really well,” Morris said. “(Smith) did a great job of moving the ball and getting everybody shots.”
The Pistons had spent the entire third quarter and the first four-plus minutes of the fourth trailing by double digits.
The Hornets (25-32) came out with a bounce in their step in the first half, and Walker was at the center of that, going for 17 first-half points. Charlotte took a 62-50 lead into the break on the back of a 21-4 run that answered a 12-0 Pistons run in the second quarter.
Walker finished with 34 points.
Defensive lapses allowed the Hornets to get to the basket and get open looks on the perimeter in the first half. The Pistons were able to close the gap with a 9-0 run in the first quarter before the second quarter spurt that put them in front 41-38. They couldn’t sustain that energy.
Frank Kaminsky (17 points) and Nicolas Batum (18 points) proved to be matchups the Pistons just weren’t prepared for. Kaminsky was able to go inside and out, while Batum was able to draw fouls and get to the line, where he was 5-for-5 in the first half.
Andre Drummond finished with 12 points and 13 rebounds.
Geoff Robinson is a freelance writer.