Pistons cough up 25-point lead, lose to Clippers
Detroit — Having completely lost a 25-point second-quarter lead with plenty of time left in the fourth quarter, the Pistons had a chance to show some mental toughness.
The collapse continued through the fourth quarter, and the Pistons offense stalled down the stretch, leading to a 111-101 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers at Little Caesars Arena on Saturday, the biggest comeback in Clippers history.
There are many ways to slice this Detroit loss, and none of them make the Pistons look good. It's tied for the franchise's biggest blown lead in the last 20 seasons. The Clippers (29-24) ended the game on a 51-18 run. Detroit's bench was outscored 80-17. The Pistons scored 40 in the first quarter, tying a season high, but only 36 in the second half.
As the Los Angeles lead grew in the fourth quarter, Detroit fans' displeasure was audible, with many heading for the exits early, not willing to see if the Pistons (22-29) could come back.
"We played some of our best basketball in the first half," Pistons coach Dwane Casey said. "It's devastating. We were like two different teams. Until we develop those winning habits through four quarters, we're going to be feeling disappointed a lot."
With the trade deadline on Thursday, Detroit's running out of time to be feeling disappointed. It entered the day two games behind the Miami Heat for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Forward Blake Griffin scored 24 but was only 9-for-23 shooting and 3-for-12 on 3-pointers. He did tie center Andre Drummond for the game high in rebounds with 11.
"It was tough," Griffin said. "We just did a poor job on defense. We started missing shots, didn't get stops, and they (the Clippers) slowly chipped at it (the lead)."
Clippers guard Lou Williams showed why he's considered one of the best pure scorers in the league, torching the Pistons for a season-high 39 points, 18 coming in the fourth quarter. Detroit guard Bruce Brown gamely tried to defend Williams but couldn't match the sixth man's quickness.
"He (Williams) believes he can score on anybody," Los Angeles coach Doc Rivers said. "He was fortunate that both Blake (Griffin) and Drummond had five fouls. We got them in pick-and-roll and they couldn't be too aggressive."
Pistons reserve Ish Smith was eased back into the rotation with 12 minutes on Saturday. He scored six points on 2-for-4 shooting (2-for-2 on 3-pointers). The point guard had missed six-straight before the Clippers game nursing a tight right adductor.
"Tough loss," Smith said. "These are the ones where you kind of kick yourself at the end of the season. We have to be the aggressors. When they started being the aggressors we got back on our heels a little. You just have to go win those games, and we will."
Former Piston and current Clipper Tobias Harris had a rough night, going 3-for-12 shooting (1-for-5 on 3-pointers) for seven points, but the forward was thrilled with his current team's resiliency.
"We wanted to get this win, and we wanted to grind it out," Harris said. "Lou (Williams) was huge for us tonight. (Clippers forward) Mike Scott came in and played some great defense in the fourth quarter."
Scott shot 5-for-6 from the field and 3-for-3 beyond the arc for 15 points off the bench.
"He's (Scott) not on the bench pouting or complaining about minutes," Los Angeles guard Patrick Beverley said. "He's not a cancer on the team. He's a pro. When his number was called, he was ready. He made plays defensively that sparked his offense and we needed that push."
Pistons guard Reggie Jackson played well in a losing effort, notching a season-high 29 points on 11-for-22 shooting (5-for-9 on 3-pointers) with a team-high seven assists.
Former Louisville forward Montrezl Harrell was disruptive down low off the bench for the Clippers, throwing down several of his signature two-handed dunks and scoring 16 on 8-for-13 shooting with a blocked shot.
The Clippers play at Toronto at 3 p.m. Sunday while Detroit will try to regroup against the Denver Nuggets on Monday.
Eric Coughlin is a freelance writer.