Griffin wasn't happy with the officiating but Pistons had their chances. Rod Beard, The Detroit News
Detroit — With their first two-game win streak in six weeks, the Pistons looked like they were turning things around.
They won the first two games in their three-game homestand and were looking for the trifecta against the Kings, who walloped the Pistons by 10 points on Jan. 10.
Even without Andre Drummond (concussion protocol) and Ish Smith (groin tightness), the Pistons had the game under control, with a 13-point margin in the fourth quarter. All they needed to do was put it away in the final minutes.
They never did — and the Kings snatched a 103-101 victory with an off-balance 3-pointer by Buddy Hield as the buzzer sounded, stunning the crowd at Little Caesars Arena on Saturday night.
Hield finished with 35 points and nine rebounds, but his winning shot capped his string of 14 of the Kings’ final 16 points in the last 3:25.
On the winning shot, Hield appeared to double-dribble, as he had a one-handed dribble, then grabbed the ball with two hands and dribbled again before putting up the shot.
“Fumbling the ball, taking a controlled dribble to gather the ball, picking it up with two hands then taking another dribble definitely works to your advantage,” Blake Griffin said. “I can’t say anything about the officiating, but I don’t know that I’ve ever been part of a game like that. (I’m) very frustrated. I’m almost at a loss for words at what happened.”
Griffin finished with 38 points and six rebounds and Luke Kennard 19 points for the Pistons (20-25), who embark on a three-game road trip at Washington, New Orleans and Dallas — all teams with losing records — this week.
Instead of riding a three-game streak into the road trip, the Pistons will have to pick up the pieces ahead of Monday’s matinee after failing to get a critical stop in the final seconds.
The Pistons lost to the Kings on a last-second 3-pointer by Buddy Hield. Rod Beard, The Detroit News
“There were so many little things that happened that weren’t good for us but one thing I do know is how hard the guys competed and if we continue to do that and clean up some of the mental mistakes that we are making — all of us — it’s going to be there,” coach Dwane Casey said. “As long as we keep the same fight, the same intensity, good things will happen.”
The Kings (24-21) trailed, 93-81 with 6:21 left but Marvin Bagley Jr. (14 points) got a dunk and Willie Cauley-Stein (12 points) added a lay-in before De’Aaron Fox’s two free throws, which started an 11-0 run and cut the deficit to one at the 2:51 mark.
Hield finished the spurt with a jumper and a 3-pointer before Griffin’s three-point play pushed the margin back to four. Hield answered with a three-point play but Reggie Bullock hit a 3-pointer to get the lead back to 99-95.
The Kings regained the lead on a dunk by Cauley-Stein and Hield hit a 3-pointer with 1:11 left, for a 100-99 margin. Griffin scored on a lay-in and a 101-100 lead, but after the Kings inbounded with 3.4 seconds left, Hield dribbled through traffic and got an open look — and put it in for the winner.
Without Drummond and Smith, the Pistons struggled to score and had some different substitution patterns but were right there to get a needed win.
“I’m proud of how hard we played. We fought and due to circumstances out of our control, we lost that game,” Griffin said. “We had bad plays down the stretch and did things here and there, but that game was unlike any game I’ve been a part of.”
The Pistons had an 82-74 lead to start the fourth quarter and stretched it with a 5-0 spurt, with a floater by Khyri Thomas and a 3-pointer by Kennard, for a 13-point lead.
Drummond sustained a nasal contusion after taking an elbow to the nose in Friday’s win but was in the NBA’s concussion protocol and was ruled out of Saturday’s game. It’s unclear how long he might be out, but with games Monday and Wednesday, he’s likely to return on the road trip.
Smith’s groin tightness could be a lingering issue for the remainder of the season.