Double OT Crusher
Overcoming a 17-point deficit – in a cruel twist of irony, the exact margin of lead they held in their two most recent home games, both losses – against a likely playoff-bound team, the Pistons held a six-point lead with 1:32 to go in regulation. They had clean looks to win the game at the end of both regulation and the first overtime, first from Brandon Knight and later from Rodney Stuckey, and they led by three in the second overtime.
But Joe Johnson, one of the handful of high-priced players either acquired or retained over a splashy off-season that accompanied the Nets’ move from New Jersey to Brooklyn, drained a long 2-point jump shot over Tayshaun Prince as the buzzer sounded in the second overtime to break a tie and gore the Pistons in a 107-105 defeat.
“We showed great resolve, great fight and we competed extremely hard,” Lawrence Frank said. “There’s no one happy with the consolation prize. Disappointed that we came up short, because in both regulation and both overtimes, we got the stop – we just couldn’t finish the play.”
The Nets grabbed a series of key offensive rebounds on a night the Pistons held a 54-43 rebounding edge. Gerald Wallace’s tip of Johnson’s miss tied the game at 90 with 21 seconds to go before Knight missed a 16-footer to end regulation. Wallace grabbed another offensive rebound to set up Johnson’s 8-foot runner to tie the game at 100 with 19 seconds left in the first overtime ahead of Stuckey’s missed 15-footer to force a second overtime.
Down a point with 17 seconds left in the second overtime, Greg Monroe missed two free throws. After Johnson made one with 10 seconds left, Knight missed a wide-open baseline jump shot that Kyle Singler rebounded and laid in to tie it at 105 with 5.8 seconds left, setting the stage for Johnson’s dramatics.
“What we wanted to do was try to fire, meaning double team it from the nearest man in the crowd,” Frank said. “It happened quick, dribble handoff right to him and he hit a tough shot. We were just a little slow in terms of coming to react with the double team.”
“He made a big shot, obviously, but there were a number of plays,” Monroe said. “We missed free throws, with me, some rebounds we’ve got to get, but through all that, we still put ourselves in position to win the game. It’s one of those games, you can point out a number of plays and say that play, that free throw, was the reason you won or lost.”
Among the many plays the Pistons will look back at were three baskets they thought they’d scored, only to have them taken away. Two were Andre Drummond put-backs, ruled basket interference, and the third was even more damaging: Charlie Villanueva’s tip that lasted on the scoreboard several minutes but was overturned on review as a shot-clock violation.
It was a flat-out mistake but not correctable. Drummond’s follow shot hit the rim, but because the shot clock didn’t reset Villanueva’s tip came after it had expired. Inside of two minutes, it would have been correctable. But there were seven minutes left, and instead of leading by three, the Pistons led by just one.
“Basically, it was human error,” Frank said, “but they couldn’t go back and reverse it because it’s not reversible if it’s not in the last two minutes.”
It was a long and winding path to take to come away with a loss, especially when the Pistons soundly outplayed the Nets for much of the game – but they played so poorly for about half of the second quarter, when the Nets outscored them 21-1, that their dominant third quarter was only good enough to provide a 77-73 lead headed to the fourth quarter.
Down 12 at halftime, the Pistons outscored the Nets 30-14 in the third quarter and held them to 32 percent shooting, dominating the glass (14-6) and getting a combined 17 points from Knight (9 of his 22) and Monroe (8 of his 17).
The Pistons also got a double-double from Tayshaun Prince (12 points, 10 rebounds, six assists), 19 from Stuckey and another strong outing from Drummond (eight points, nine boards, three blocks in 18 minutes).
It was enough to put themselves in position to win – again – but they couldn’t quite close the deal, again.
“Not even a stop away – a rebound away, both overtimes,” Frank said. “It was a six-point game with a minute and change. Our guys competed their tails off after being down going into the third quarter, fighting back, holding them to a 14-point quarter … and then, really, one rebound away or one finishing play away from winning the game. We just came up short. They had the last word.”