The Pistons fell to the Charlotte Hornets, 108-107, on Wednesday night. Rod Beard, The Detroit News
Charlotte, N.C. — There are losses — and then there are bad losses.
Then, there’s what happened to the Pistons on Wednesday night.
They had an 11-point lead heading into the fourth quarter and still led by 10 with just over six minutes left.
They squandered it in a matter of minutes.
Kemba Walker led a frenetic run in the final five minutes, helping the Charlotte Hornets erase the deficit and surge ahead to a 108-107 victory at Spectrum Center.
Walker had 12 points and three assists in the fourth quarter, including a pass to Jeremy Lamb for the go-ahead jumper with 0.3 seconds left. The loss extends the Pistons’ losing streak to a season-long six games and drops them to 13-13.
“We were missing shots and defensively we had to come down and get stops,” coach Dwane Casey said. “That is when Walker got it going, attacking the rim and attacking the basket.”
While Lamb’s final shot was still in the air, Hornets guard Malik Monk was on the bench and ran out on the court to celebrate. Officials reviewed the video and determined the Hornets had six players on the floor and assessed a technical foul, allowing the Pistons to pull within one point with 0.3 seconds remaining.
Langston Galloway made the free throw and the Pistons had one last desperation heave to try to get a potential winning shot off — but the Hornets corralled it and held on for the win.
Blake Griffin had 26 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists and Andre Drummond 14 points, 13 rebounds and a season-high six blocks.
The Pistons had their chances, but couldn’t execute on offense down the stretch. Griffin missed two free throws with 23.6 seconds left, which could have gotten the lead.
“It’s on me. I have to finish games better for us, beyond just the (missed free throws). I have to be better for us and get better shots,” Griffin said. “If you’re going to take one good thing away: all that happened in the fourth quarter and it’s still a tie game in the final seconds. It’s a good lesson not to give up and to keep fighting.”
The defense got the Pistons back in the game in the third quarter, with 38 points — their highest-scoring third period of the season — but their struggling offense short-circuited after they took a 101-91 lead with 6:23 remaining.
The Hornets (14-13) scored the next 13 points — Walker had 11 of those — for a 104-101 lead with 46.8 seconds remaining.
Drummond completed a three-point play to tie it and Walker (31 points, eight rebounds and nine assists) split a pair of free throws with 30.6 seconds left. Then came Griffin’s misses from the free-throw line.
“I don’t know if it was our offense going bad or their defense coming better, but we struggled to score the ball in that situation and we’ve got to find easier shots,” guard Jose Calderon said.
On the next possession, Lamb (13 points) made one of two free throws for a two-point lead. Langston Galloway (17 points) was fouled and made both free throws to tie it.
On their last possession, the Hornets drained the clock to the final seconds and Lamb hit the go-ahead basket.
The Pistons were in control, with a 93-82 lead entering the fourth quarter. Tony Parker (16 points) and Monk hit a basket each and Monk added a 3-pointer as part of a 7-2 run. The Pistons later got the lead back to 10 after jumpers by Bruce Brown (eight points and six rebounds) and Calderon for a 101-91 advantage at the 6:23 mark
► 1. The Pistons had been struggling in third quarters this season, turning small halftime deficits into double-digit deficits heading into the fourth quarter. They turned things around, with their best third quarter of the season, scoring 38 points and turning a 60-55 deficit into an 11-point advantage.
► 2. Dwane Casey said the Pistons’ offense would kick into high gear when the 3-pointers started to fall — and he was right. After a tough 2-for-10 start, the Pistons went 10-of-16 in the next spurt. During a stretch n the third quarter, their three made baskets were all 3-pointers and that’s when they were able to stretch out the lead.
► 3. Bruce Brown turned up his energy on the defensive end, which was critical during a stretch early in the third quarter, He got a couple of steals and easy baskets to help get a 6-0 run that regained the lead. The rookie has had his christening with some of the toughest guards in the league but held his own against Kemba Walker, which finding his own offensive games with cuts and shots at the basket.
► 4. Luke Kennard didn’t have the same rhythm that he had in his start on Monday against the Sixers, but he did make a couple 3-pointers and looked as aggressive in finding his shot. When Reggie Bullock returns to the lineup, Kennard likely will stay in the starting group, providing some scoring punch that Glenn Robinson III didn’t give during his time. It’s a shift for the Pistons, but with so many injuries, it’s their new normal.
► 5. The Pistons finished 14-of-21 (67 percent) on free throws but were 4-of-6 — only Griffin’s two misses — in the fourth quarter. Although they were good in spurts, their inability to get into an offensive flow hurt them again.