Pistons cough up 22-point lead in stunning setback
Indianapolis — The Pistons found themselves on the other side of the bill. They’ve won a number of games in their surprising start this season by overcoming double-digit deficits, with fourth-quarter rallies.
It was the Indiana Pacers’ turn Friday night.
The Pistons had an outstanding first half and raced to a 22-point margin midway through the third quarter — only to see it evaporate. The Pacers pulled ahead with 5:23 left and snatched a stunning 107-100 victory at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
“It’s disappointing to be up in a game that many points and let it slip,” said Tobias Harris, who had 15 points. “That was what we did last year a lot of times. We’re supposed to be a lot better as a team. It’s a game we’ll learn from as a team and get our spirits back up and keep it moving.”
Reggie Jackson and Avery Bradley had 16 points each and Andre Drummond added 11 points and 15 rebounds for the Pistons (10-5), who lost their second straight and finish their three-game road trip on Sunday at Minnesota.
The Pacers (8-8) rallied behind Lance Stephenson (13 points) and Domantas Sabonis (12 points), who accounted for 21 points in the fourth quarter, when Indiana outscored the Pistons, 36-19.
“It was a combination of very stagnant offense and not really getting good movement and good shots and at the other end, our transition defense was horrendous,” coach Stan Van Gundy said. “We didn’t play well down the stretch. Just look at the NBA every night — these things happen all the time.
“It’s not necessarily a team getting comfortable — it happens all the time and it happens like that: a team shooting a lot of threes and making them.”
The Pacers were scorching, going 11-of-16 on 3-pointers in the second half, which jump-started the comeback. The Pistons led, 81-71, entering the fourth quarter and rookie Luke Kennard (13 points) started the final period with a 3-pointer.
Indiana countered with a 12-0 run, with a jumper and putback by Stephenson and 3-pointers from Victor Oladipo (21 points) and Bojan Bogdanovic (15 points).
Ish Smith sparked a run with the Pistons’ next eight points, with two three-point plays and a drive, pushing the margin back to 92-85 at the 6:52 mark. The Pacers kept pushing, as Corey Joseph and Stephenson hit back-to-back 3-pointers, Sabonis added a pair of free throws and Stephenson had a putback to give the Pacers their first lead of the second half.
“They went on a 3-point barrage. Lance Stephenson was shooting 16 percent from 3 (5-for-30) and hits two of them,” Van Gundy said. “That’s the kind of thing that happens and that’s why you see a lot of these leads disappear.
“Whether we were comfortable or not, I don’t know. We just didn’t play well at all and got dominated — we got outscored by 29 points in 18 minutes.”
The Pistons kept pushing, with a 3 and a lay-in by Harris, but they couldn’t overcome the surge. Bradley’s 3-pointer in the final minute was the only other field goal in the final 3:45.
“I’m glad it happened in Game 15 and not later in the season,” Smith said.