Dennis Smith's inspired play goes for naught, Pistons lose it late to Kings 110-107
Detroit — Dennis Smith Jr. made his mark on the game — and it wasn’t just with his highlight-reel dunk.
Smith scored seven straight Pistons points late in the third quarter and had a 3-pointer midway through the fourth quarter to regain the lead.
That provided a lift for the Pistons, but they couldn’t hold on in the final minutes, as the Kings escaped with a 110-107 victory on Friday night at Little Caesars Arena, ending their nine-game losing streak.
Smith finished with a season-high 17 points and six assists, Jerami Grant had 30 points and seven rebounds and Saddiq Bey 17 points for the Pistons (9-24), who lost for the fifth time in the last six games.
The Pistons trailed by 17 points in the early minutes of the first quarter, and facing the Kings, who were on the second game of a back-to-back, after being blown out Thursday night, were in a tough spot.
“We weren’t ready to play. We came out and gave them a lot of easy ones and made it tough on the offense because we weren’t getting stops,” Grant said. “We just weren’t ready to play — and that’s on us.”
The Pistons played catchup for most of the game, finally pulling even in the third quarter, when the Pistons made a furious rush. Grant converted a three-point play and Smith made a jumper and then another 3-pointer, to pull ahead, 73-71. The Kings got a basket from Marvin Bagley Jr. Smith scored on a drive and after Grant’s two free throws, the Pistons were in a good spot, ending the third quarter with an 80-75 lead.
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The Pistons kept the lead, but De’Aaron Fox scored nine of the Kings’ first 12 points in the fourth quarter.
Smith’s 3-pointer at the 5:45 mark made it a 94-91 Pistons lead, ending a 10-2 Kings run, which had five points by Fox (27 points, five rebounds and six assists). The Pistons got a pair of free throws from Grant on the next possession and stayed ahead, but Buddy Hield hit a jumper and Harrison Barnes (21 points) added two free throws, to take a 97-96 lead.
Mason Plumlee (six points, nine rebounds and six assists) scored on a dunk and after Barnes missed two free throws, Bey hit his fifth 3-pointer, for a 101-97 lead with 2:48 left.
The Kings (13-20), who had lost nine straight games, weren’t out of it. Richaun Holmes (19 points and 17 rebounds) scored on a dunk and made two free throws on the next trip and Barnes added a dunk, to regain the lead, 103-101.
Grant, who went 14-of-15 on free throws, had his only miss of the game, splitting a pair with 1:00 left. On the ensuing possession, Barnes hit a 3-pointer and pushed the lead to four.
Josh Jackson (14 points) drove for a dunk and on the Kings’ next possession, Hield jumped over Jackson for an apparent basket and foul. The Pistons challenged the call, asserting that Hield fouled Jackson. After a video review, the call was overturned and Jackson had two free throws.
He missed both — the second intentionally — and the Pistons were down two with 12.9 seconds left.
The Pistons had several chances to tie, but they ended up trading free throws in the final seconds.
“Of all the things that happened down the stretch, (the slow start) was the most disappointing. We knew we had a hungry, wounded team coming in, losing nine in a row,” Casey said. “We had a similar situation against Indiana, who had lost (a lot) in a row, and we talked about how we had to play desperate and with energy, and keep the pace up and be smart and focused and locked in and we didn’t start like that. We were down, 12-3, in the first three minutes of the game.”