Pistons’ fight back falls short in Palace finale
Auburn Hills — In the final game at The Palace, the Pistons finished things out with a show.
In front of many of their former champions, team owner Tom Gores and a raucous crowd in the comfy confines of one of the oldest arenas — at 29 years old — left in the NBA, the Pistons looked to close things out on a high note.
After looking sluggish for most of the first half, the Pistons rallied in the third and fourth quarters and overcame a double-digit deficit, behind their young reserve players.
But they couldn’t get over the hump, falling to the Washington Wizards, 105-101, on Monday night.
As much as the scene was about the past and getting ready to move to Little Caesars Arena in downtown Detroit next season, the Pistons played with purpose in the fourth quarter, buoyed by the crowd.
“I think everyone that was here and everyone that was watching could definitely sense the crowd,” Reggie Jackson said. “Tough day. Our last game at The Palace that the Pistons will play here.”
Tobias Harris had 22 points, Ish Smith 16 points and Marcus Morris 12 for the Pistons (37-44), who finish the season on Wednesday at Orlando.
But coach Stan Van Gundy lauded the young group, featuring Smith, Reggie Bullock, Stanley Johnson, Harris and Boban Marjanovic, for bringing a good effort down the stretch and keeping the game close in the final minutes.
“That unit that played the stretch in the second half, was tremendous,” Van Gundy said. “If you look at the thing, the whole game was the first quarter. After that, we played really well.”
After trailing, 55-42, at halftime, the Pistons finished the third quarter with a 16-7 flurry and the deficit was 79-73.
Then they starting hitting from long range.
Stanley Johnson opened with a 3-pointer and Reggie Bullock followed with another 3-pointer, to tie it at 79. The teams traded baskets until Jason Smith and Tomas Satoransky hit back-to-back jumpers to push the lead to four.
Johnson added another 3-pointer but Bojan Bogdanovic answered with a 3-pointer at the 6:38 mark to keep the margin at four.
The Pistons got back within 90-88 after a drive by Smith, but Bradley Beal (33 points) had a dunk and a driving layup to make it a six-point lead with 4:09 left. Markieff Morris (20 points) hit a jumper, but Harris led the charge back, with a three-play and a 3-pointer, to get the Pistons back within two.
After another jumper by Markieff Morris, Bullock (11 points) hit a 3-pointer to make it a 98-97 lead with 1:28 left. From there, the Wizards pulled away, a jumper by Morris and a dunk by Beal, who was fouled and made the free throw.
Harris kept the Pistons in it with a drive and Boban Marjanovic (eight points and eight rebounds) added a dunk — the last field goal at The Palace — to get within two, but Beal finished it off with a pair of free throws.
The Wizards (49-32) got off to a hot start, racing to a 10-4 lead in the first four minutes, with a pair of baskets by Marcin Gortat, part of a 10-2 flurry. The Pistons closed in later, with a 3-pointer by rookie Henry Ellenson and back-to-back baskets by Andre Drummond (10 points and seven rebounds).
The Pistons pulled within 20-19 after a Marjanovic dunk, but the Wizards scored the next 12 points, including eight from Beal, to take a 13-point lead. They finished the quarter with a 34-21 lead, after a jumper at the buzzer by Satoransky (11 points).