A buzzer-beater by Magic guard Evan Fournier sent the Pistons to their fourth loss int he last five games Rod Beard, The Detroit News
Orlando, Fla. — During a stretch of games in which wins are like diamonds — rare but precious — the Pistons are at a point they don’t have many that are close games in the final minutes. With a slew of recent double-digit losses, they’re just trying to hang on until they can right the ship.
That’s going to take some time and the Pistons are trying to tread water until then.
After their team meeting following Friday’s loss at Indiana, the Pistons had a similar lackluster performance, but scrapped their way back, erasing a nine-point deficit with 3:34 remaining to tie it in the final seconds.
Then came another way to lose as they tried to tread.
Evan Fournier made a floater at the buzzer, sending the Orlando Magic to a stunning victory, 109-107, on Sunday afternoon at Amway Center. It’s the second straight loss for the Pistons (16-18) and fourth in the last five games.
“Our guys laid it on the line,” coach Dwane Casey. “We were 14 down, the guys came in and gave it their heart and soul.”
Luke Kennard had 16 points, Blake Griffin 15 points and Reggie Bullock 15 points each and Andre Drummond 14 points and 15 rebounds.
The Pistons tied it at 107 with 2.5 seconds left when Reggie Bullock made all three free throws after being fouled on a 3-point attempt. On the final possession, the Magic (16-19) found Fournier on the inbounds pass and he got past Stanley Jonson to the free-throw line for the winner.
“Everybody looks at the last play. There were way more possessions before that that we did some things that get you beat,” Casey said. “That play, I thought Stanley got off, gave him a little edge in that situation — but again, he made a tough shot.
“The games don’t come down to that one play. Those things go either way.”
It was a heartbreaking loss for the Pistons, who were down, 104-95, with 3:34 remaining after a basket by Nikola Vucevic (22 points and 11 rebounds). The Pistons responded with a 9-1 run, with a pair of baskets by Bruce Brown, a 3-pointer by Bullock and a reverse lay-in by Reggie Jackson (11 points), to pull within 105-104 with 8.9 seconds left.
The Pistons let Terrence Ross get free for a breakaway dunk and the Magic had a three-point margin before Bullock was fouled on the Pistons’ final possession. When he made all three free throws, the Pistons looked to be in a spot to force overtime, until Fournier’s winning basket.
“It is frustrating seeing that we just put ourselves in that position. We played hard tonight,” Bullock said. “We put a lot of will into it; we just have to clean up a lot of our mistakes right here at the end to be able to pull out a win and put ourselves in a great position.”
Former Piston D.J. Augustin (26 points, eight assists) had nine of his points in the fourth quarter, spurring the Magic’s surge.
1. Drummond had another double-double but was mired in foul trouble for most of the game. He got his second foul at 3:46 of the first quarter and third at 3:56 of the second. He had to come out of the game before he could establish a good rhythm and picked up his fourth foul less than a minute into the fourth quarter. The stats indicated he had a mediocre game, but his energy told a different story for the spurts he was in the game.
2. Brown is finding his footing as an energy defender, but also an offensive option, tying his career high with 10 points. He’s getting to the rim more but making good decisions on when to drive and when to take 3-pointers. He had a couple of nice cuts to the rim and finishes at the basket that showed he’s more comfortable when he gets open opportunities.
3. Zaza Pachulia found a good niche in the pick-and-roll game, by creating space — that is, sticking out his tail — and finding the cutting guard for a back-door pass. It worked a few times in the game, with Luke Kennard, Brown and Jose Calderon, to perfection. He’s regarded as one of the best screeners around, but he showed an adeptness with four assists.
4. Kennard found his shooting stroke again, going 7-of-11 from the field and helping kick-start the struggling offense in the first half. He said after the game that he hasn’t done anything different to get into his rhythm, but he’s starting to take the shots that coaches have been encouraging him to take, without the hesitation. It’s a night-and-day difference when he does, as he can also create off the dribble when defenders crowd him on the shot.
5. Glenn Robinson III was available to play for the first time, coming off his sprained ankle that kept him out for eight games. He was dressed for the game and was on the bench but didn’t see any game action. Casey said before the game that it would be tough to find minutes on the wing for Robinson, who had been moved to the bench just before the injury.