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Wood went 5-of-5 on 3-pointers and 12-of-15 from the field in bettering his career high by one point in Wednesday's loss. The Detroit News

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Detroit — Though the Pistons have been mired in a stretch of losses, with eight defeats in their last nine games, they have managed to make the games interesting. Only three of those losses have been by double digits and in almost every one of them, they’ve been within reach in the fourth quarter.

With a 14-point deficit early in the fourth quarter, the short-handed Pistons didn’t give in and still showed some fight, pushing for a critical rally down the stretch but falling short in the final minute, in a 114-107 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday night at Little Caesars Arena.

Christian Wood set a new career high with 29 points, including going 5-of-5 on 3-pointers, and added 10 rebounds.

“This is one of my best performances in my career so far,” Wood said. “I wish it came in a win; we cut it close at the end but we just couldn’t pull it off.”

Brandon Knight added 18 points and seven rebounds and Jordan McRae — signed off waivers earlier Wednesday — chipped in 15 points in his debut for the Pistons (20-43).

With only one of their starters from the beginning of the season, the Pistons are giving full effort, even though it’s not always resulting in wins.

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The Pistons trailed by 16 and rallied to take the lead, but fell, 114-107, to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday night. The Detroit News

“That's one thing I love about this group — they compete; they're playing hard. We have a lot of growing up to do and we have a lot of men in a lot of situations that they've not been in before,” Pistons coach Dwane Casey said. “I love Christian and he's really growing right before our eyes, but this is the first time he's been in (during) crunch time. … He's growing and learning and once we do, it's going to be something good because we're playing hard enough to win.”

The Pistons didn’t defend well in the first half, allowing Oklahoma City to shoot 69% from the field and 57% on 3-pointers, but the Thunder only led 69-64 at halftime.

The Thunder (38-24) opened the fourth quarter with a 94-82 lead before Wood scored on an alley-oop. Steven Adams countered with a basket and Chris Paul (15 points, four rebounds and six assists) added a jumper for a 14-point margin with 9:31 left.

Wood started the rally, hitting his fourth 3-pointner of the game, igniting a 19-4 run, turning the deficit into a 103-102 lead with 4:28 remaining. Knight hit his fourth 3-pointer and Langston Galloway and Wood added back-to-back 3-pointers, followed by a basket by McRae and a 3-pointer by Svi Mykhailiuk (13 points) for the Pistons’ first lead since the first quarter.

BOX SCORE: Thunder 114, Pistons 107

The Pistons couldn’t get stops down the stretch, though. Nerlens Noel scored on a dunk and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (27 points) hit a pull-up jumper to regain the lead. Wood responded with a dunk and Knight a floater to put the Pistons ahead, 108-107, at the 1:32 mark.

The Thunder shot 61% from the field and the Pistons couldn’t get the ball back and continue the scoring run, as Dennis Schroder (23 points and nine assists) gave them the lead for good and Danilo Gallinari (19 points and seven rebounds) hit a 3-pointer.

It was a whirlwind for McRae, who flew from Denver on Wednesday afternoon, landed in Detroit and went straight to the arena. After a quick medical examination, he was on the floor to warm up — and was in the game shortly thereafter.

“It’s just basketball at the end of the day. All the guys did a great job at helping me with all the plays that I didn’t know,” McRae said. “I knew some of (the plays) but big shout to all of them for helping me out.”

Observations

►In his pregame talk, Casey called McRae a professional scorer. It didn’t take long for the newest Piston to show it, making his first three field-goal attempts, on the way to 10 points in nine minutes in the first half. Casey said McRae was unfamiliar with the schemes and actions the Pistons were trying to run, but the scoring instinct is universal, and he found ways to be useful, including getting to the free-throw line.

►Brandon Knight started in place of Derrick Rose, who is out for at least the next two weeks. It’s the 30th starting lineup the Pistons have used this season, highlighting the myriad injuries that have dotted the season and decimated the roster. Knight went from the third option at the time of the Andre Drummond trade to the starter in a matter of a couple of weeks.

►Wood has settled in nicely as a focal point for the offense, with his ability to score from either the paint or the perimeter. He’s gotten comfortable driving the ball, making defenses adjust for his length and passing ability. He’s clearly distinguished himself as an offensive threat and a player the Pistons will want to bring back next season.

►Wood was the last player introduced in pregame introductions. That’s seemingly insignificant, but when it’s measured against the fact that he was the last player to make the roster out of training camp to getting the most coveted spot in the intros, it’s quite the turnaround.

Rod.Beard@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @detnewsRodBeard

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