Pistons use late flurry to bury Cavaliers in furious finish
Detroit — The Pistons erased a couple of deficits and won. That could mean something, but considering it’s the preseason, it could also mean nothing.
Either way, it was a thrilling finish as the Pistons climbed out of a nine-point hole in the final four minutes and pulled ahead in the final minute to take a 109-105 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday night at Little Caesars Arena.
It’s the second straight preseason win for the Pistons, who play their last two exhibition games on the road next week — at Philadelphia on Tuesday and at Charlotte on Wednesday.
The Pistons finished on a 14-3 run in the final 3:38, with a boost from Tim Frazier, who hit a jumper and another 3-pointer during a 9-0 run that tied it with 1:42 left.
Here are some observations from the third preseason game:
► Derrick Rose is still good at basketball. He put on a nice display at the end of the third quarter, with two nice baskets in the final 30 seconds. The first was a jumper, then he added a buzzer-beating drive through the lane. Rose got the ball from midcourt, looked up at the clock and with about four seconds left, made a beeline for the basket and he put it in with a second to spare. It’s just a small sampling of the excitement that he brings to the court, seemingly drawing a louder cheer with every basket.
Fans have been looking for Rose to move into the starting lineup, but it’s highly unlikely given his injury history and the desire to keep him healthy for a potential playoff run.
The Pistons have used Rose with Reggie Jackson and in three-guard combinations, each with some level of success. His best role seems to be off the bench as a super-sub with Luke Kennard and the revamped second unit.
► Joe Johnson found a little spark. The preseason has been tough for Johnson, who had 20 minutes in an expanded role after Blake Griffin was ruled out of the game and Markieff Morris started.
Johnson went 2-of-5 from the field and didn’t make a huge impact in the first two exhibition games but warmed up a little Friday. His value is his veteran experience and the calm and versatility he brings, but at some point it had to register on the scoreboard to resonate with fans.
In the fourth quarter, Johnson hit a drive at the 3:38 mark that started the 9-0 run that erased the lead. He added a floater with 17.6 seconds that pushed the Pistons’ lead to 108-105.
► Bruce Brown has some offensive game. He’s been an asset on the defensive end, but he was much more visible in the flow of the offense on Friday with 15 points and seven assists. The scoring was notable because it came on just six field-goal attempts, and he was much more aggressive going to the basket and drawing contact.
Brown’s seven assists were a nod to his work in Summer League to become a better ball-handler and facilitator on offense. It’s showing through now in the preseason, which is a big step for him getting more playing time as a lead guard and working in the pick-and-roll more frequently.
► Christian Wood is getting closer to making the Pistons roster. That’s unofficial, of course, but he is making an impression with his play around the rim and making things happen. After 19 points in the opener, he had reduced minutes in the second game on Wednesday but followed up with another good showing on Friday, with 11 points in 16 minutes.
It’s still a toss-up between Wood and Johnson for the final roster spot, but the other possibility is a trade to open a roster spot to retain both Johnson and Wood. It’s unclear who the considerations would be, but it’s an option that might work best, if a deal can be found.