Rod Beard of The Detroit News on Detroit's latest defeat, a 121-119 overtime loss to Toronto. Rod Beard
Detroit — This time, it wasn’t a second-quarter slump that hurt the Pistons.
It was a third-quarter defensive collapse — and some good shooting from the Toronto Raptors. That 40-25 margin after halftime erased a 14-point lead that the Pistons had built in an encouraging second period and put the Raptors up by one.
From there, the Pistons stayed close but couldn’t muster another big rally — nor a defense to stop DeMar DeRozan. The All-Star guard lifted the Raptors to a thrilling 121-119 overtime victory over the Pistons on Wednesday night at Little Caesars Arena.
The loss is the fourth straight and 10th in the last 12 games for the Pistons (29-36), who fell 18.5 games behind the Eastern Conference-leading Raptors (47-17), and more importantly, five games behind the Miami Heat for the final playoff spot in the East.
DeRozan finished with 42 points — the most points the Pistons have allowed this season — and added six assists. His biggest assist came on the deciding play, with the score tied at 119 in overtime. DeRozan drove and found Fred VanVleet for the go-ahead 20-foot jumper with 1.1 seconds remaining in overtime.
“Three or four guys were on him and he just trusted me and threw it out,” VanVleet said. “The rest was just to shoot the wide-open shot.”
Blake Griffin (31 points) had a chance to win it at the buzzer, but his 3-pointer was off the mark. DeRozan had completed a three-point play — the last of his 31 points in the second half — at the 1:37 mark in overtime and Griffin tied it at 119 on a 3-pointer with 36.8 seconds left.
After the Pistons had a 36-18 margin and shot 72 percent (13-of-18) in the second quarter, the Raptors responded in the third by hitting 61 percent from the field, including 6-of-11 on 3-pointers, with 12 assists on 14 field goals.
Detroit coach on fourth straight defeat, a 121-119 OT setback to Toronto which puts team five games behind Miami for a playoff spot. Rod Beard
“We played hard and we just didn’t get the job done. We can’t give up 40 points in the third quarter; that was the ballgame right there,” coach Stan Van Gundy said. “We still had chances and we did a good job fighting back, but that’s where they got back in it.
“We talked about it at halftime: they’ve come out every game in the third quarter against us and taken it to us. Everybody nodded their head — and we weren’t ready.”
The Raptors pushed to an 85-78 lead, but the Pistons finished with the last six points, with a 3-pointer by Dwight Buycks, a jumper by James Ennis III (14 points) and a free throw by Anthony Tolliver.
The Pistons kept it close in the fourth quarter and the biggest lead was only five points down the stretch. DeRozan scored 15 of the Raptors’ final 17 points in regulation, with a variety of mid-range jumpers and a couple free throws.
Pistons forward, who scored 31, addresses span where the team gave up 40 points in a 121-119 overtime setback to the Raptors.
The Pistons overcame their deficit and tied it at 109 on a 3-pointer by Ish Smith (14 points and seven assists) with 40.2 seconds to play. DeRozan answered with a jumper with 18 seconds left and Griffin gave the Pistons a brief lead with a three-point play off a layin and foul with 10.1 seconds remaining.
DeRozan responded again, with a coast-to-coast drive — off the made basket — for a two-handed dunk and was fouled. The three-point play with 4.6 seconds left made it a 114-112.
t was a blown defensive assignment, which was frustrating, given how hard the Pistons had fought to get the lead.
“I’m not going any further with that. I’m not going to throw anybody under the bus. We just didn’t do what we were supposed to do,” Van Gundy said. “We were supposed to get it out of (DeRozan’s) hands on a couple possessions before that too.
“We had some possessions, our guys fought hard, but we had some possessions where we didn’t do what we were supposed to do.”
Pistons forward talks about setting up last shot attempt in overtime. Rod Beard
The Pistons had another answer, with Griffin posting up and getting a good look, twisting for a driving hook to tie it at 114 with 0.9 seconds left in regulation. Both teams had opportunities with 0.3 seconds after they had desperation passes go out of bounds, but neither converted, sending the game to the extra period.
In the second quarter, the Pistons got a hot start, with a 23-4 run, including six points from Griffin and five from Ennis. They had their largest lead, 47-31, at the 4:34 mark, after Luke Kennard made a 3-pointer and was fouled. He missed the free throw but the Raptors’ Serge Ibaka got a technical foul and was ejected.
Kennard made that free throw and Griffin split a pair of free throws for the 16-point margin.
The Raptors responded with a 5-0 spurt, with a free throw by Jonas Valanciunas (14 points and 11 rebounds), two free throws from C.J. Miles and a layin by DeRozan. That started a 12-5 spurt but the Pistons finished the quarter with a 7-2 run, including a jumper and a 3-pointer from Smith.
“We fought hard. It wasn’t enough, obviously and you know when you have a third quarter like that, it’s hard to win,” reserve center Eric Moreland said. “We’ve got to come out of this with our head high and just keep on pushing for the next 17 games.”
Here are some other observations from the matchup:
■ As usual, the Raptors brought a strong contingent of fans for a road game, with several, “Let’s go, Raptors!” chants, from the player introductions through the second half. It’s only a four-hour drive from Toronto to Detroit and it’s become something of a custom for Raptors fans to bring a heavy presence to road games.
■ During a timeout, the Pistons honored Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham, a Detroit native who played at Michigan and helped Philadelphia win the Super Bowl. Graham, who was an all-state selection at Detroit Crockett High School, was honored by Pistons' vice chairman Arn Tellem, an avid Eagles fan.
■ Van Gundy shuffled the starting lineup after Stanley Johnson missed the game because of back spasms. Ennis (14 points, five rebounds and four assists) moved to the bench and Kennard started in his place
■ In the final minutes of regulation and into overtime, Van Gundy stuck with Ennis over Kennard in the lineup, for his defense. Ennis had a layin and was fouled on a 3-pointer, helping the Pistons stay close during DeRozan’s surge down the stretch.