Pistons squander another lead but bounce back to upend Celtics
Detroit — Watching the Pistons lose leads is becoming a thing, and not in a good way.
Coach Dwane Casey lamented the lapses that the Pistons have had early this season, leading in all four games in the fourth quarter, but letting those leads slip away late.
This time, it was early in the fourth quarter.
The Pistons got off to a hot early start, shooting 53% from the field in the first half and leading by as many as 21, only to see it fade away, yet again.
This time, they got a different result, bouncing back for a 96-93 victory over the Boston Celtics on Friday night at Little Caesars Arena.
Jerami Grant had 24 points, Saddiq Bey 17 points and six rebounds and Derrick Rose 17 points, five rebounds and four assists for the Pistons (1-4).
“We felt like we were in every game — and tonight, we were able to pull it off,” Rose said.
Unlike the previous blown leads, the Pistons had the gusto late, scoring the last eight points of the game, including four from Grant. Holding the lead and figuring out how to win is the big takeaway that the Pistons can pull from another close one at the end, especially on the defensive end.
“Our defense carried us, but they still shot 47%. In the stretches we needed defensive stops, we got them, and that's who we have to be each and every night, until we get our offense clicking and our shots falling the way we want them to,” Casey said. “I'm really proud of our rookies, Saddiq and Isaiah (Stewart). They came in and changed the game with their defensive energy and their presence. I can't say enough about how well they played.”
The Pistons led, 55-40, at halftime and the Celtics trimmed the margin to 79-73 entering the fourth quarter with a flurry from Jayson Tatum (28 points), who scored 10 straight points for Boston near the end of the third.
Bey ended the run with a 3-pointer but the Celtics (3-3) kept the pressure on in the fourth quarter.
“He’s playing beyond his — I wouldn’t even call it one year. He’s very mature in his approach to the game," center Mason Plumlee said. "He’s super steady. He takes the shots that are there and you feel like you’re playing with a veteran when you’re playing with him.”
Jaylen Brown (25 points) scored the first seven points of the quarter for Boston, for an 80-78 lead, but Stewart split a pair of free throws and then finished a three-point play to regain the advantage.
The Celtics went on a 13-5 run, with a pair of 3-pointers from Tatum, to take their biggest lead to that point, 93-88, at the 4:15 mark.
It was déjà vu all over again for the Pistons, letting another lead get away — but there was a twist this time. They regrouped, with a drive by Grant, who later added two free throws, to get within one. Rose finished at the rim on a coast-to-coast drive to regain the lead, 94-93, with 1:20 left and the Pistons got a defensive stop.
“It’s the learning experience of how hard you have to play. You're not going to stop their go-to guys every night, but the intensity you bring, you can bring that every night,” Casey said. “We have to continue to build on what we did. It's one game, just like when you lose, it's one game. there's a lot of learning and building to be done.”
The Pistons scored the final eight points of the game, holding the Celtics scoreless for the final 4:15, with Tatum and Brown missing some open looks at the rim.
“I think that was the basketball gods' way of telling us to start the game better,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said.
On the next possession, Bey made one of two free throws, for a two-point lead with 25.3 seconds left and the Celtics getting the final possession. Plumlee held Marcus Smart to a tough shot and after he was fouled. Plumlee made one of two free throws.
Brown missed a potential tying 3-pointer on their final possession in the final seconds.