Detroit — With a rash of injuries and dealing with COVID issues, the Pistons had just one win in December. They flipped the calendar and got off to a good start in the new year.
Playing with just three regular roster players and a cadre of players from the G League, the Pistons gutted their way through regulation and stayed close in overtime, long enough for Saddiq Bey to hit a go-ahead 3-pointer from the corner with 1.9 seconds remaining.
The Pistons held on the final possession for a 117-116 overtime, ending their four-game losing streak ad sending the crowd at Little Caesars Arena into a frenzy with their first victory since Dec. 19.
Hamidou Diallo had 34 points — his third straight game with at least 28 points — and tied his career high with 13 rebounds. Bey finished with 21 points and a career-high 17 rebounds and Luka Garza added career highs of 20 points and 14 rebounds for the Pistons (6-28).
It’s a big turnaround for the Pistons, after a lopsided 144-109 loss in San Antonio last Sunday.
“Everybody was happy, and I was happy for everybody, especially the G League guys that came in,” Pistons coach Dwane Casey said. “It’s hard to come in this league to win with rookies. Then you add G League guys who are fighting and scratching to get in the league and they came in and had to play a role that probably had not done in the G League.”
Of the 10 Pistons who played, seven were on G League contracts, and the three others combined for 75 points and 45 rebounds. Cassius Stanley added a career-high 19 points and Derrick Walton Jr. 11 points, six rebounds and six assists.
It was Walton’s baseline drive and pass to Bey — through Spurs center Jakob Poeltl’s legs — that led to the go-ahead 3-pointer
“I’m not going to lie — I caught it and I knew it was good,” Bey said. “Walton had a great pass and I didn’t think it was going to get through, when he threw it between (Poeltl’s) legs. I knew if I caught it, I was going to have a chance.”
That the Pistons got a chance to win it on the last possession was improbable. The Spurs looked to have the game in hand with a one-point lead and two free throws for Derrick White (18 points and 14 assists). If he made both free throws, the best the Pistons could probably do was a tie with a 3-pointer. White split the free throws with 10.4 seconds left and the Spurs (14-21) only led by two.
On the inbounds play, Walton drove to the right side of the basket, but when the defense stayed in front of him, he passed to the opposite corner, where Bey was double-teamed, and somehow, the ball got through.
Bey and Diallo combined for all 12 of the Pistons’ points in overtime, including three drives by Diallo, who was 13-of-32 from the field, including a flurry of midrange jump shots.
“We don’t run a lot of plays for Hami, and he’s gifted enough where he can get to the rim and make some plays off of broken plays,” Casey said. “I don’t want people to think, ‘Oh, they’re not running plays for Hami.’
“Well, we didn’t tonight. A lot of it was drives to the basket, finishing off of plays, and it’s going to be the same thing when our other guys come back. He’s going to play off of them, but this will give him confidence to do that.”
In overtime, the Pistons jumped to a lead after an opening jumper by Bey and a dunk by Diallo off a nice pass from Walton Jr. The Pistons had some momentum, but Keldon Johnson answered with a lay-in. Diallo scored on a baseline drive and reverse, but the Spurs responded with a 3-pointer by Bryn Forbes (27 points) and Poeltl (15 points, 12 rebounds and five assists) scored on a drive to regain the lead, 112-111 at the 1:12 mark.
Diallo scored on the other end on a tip-in but Johnson answered with his second 3-pointer to push the lead to two. Bey was fouled on a putback attempt and made one of two free throws to cut the lead to one.
“Hami has been in the league three years now. He’s been on great teams, so he has a lot of experience in winning down the stretch and we’re confident in him,” Bey said. “He’s a good guy just to go to. If you need a bucket, he’s a great guy to go to. So, he’s been learning how to continue to win with him, with our guys they play extremely hard.”
At the end of regulation, the Pistons had a 103-101 lead after a pair of free throws by Stanley, but Forbes hit his third straight 3-pointer for the Spurs, for a one-point lead with 55 seconds left.
Garza scored on a putback to regain the lead with 44 seconds left, and Poeltl missed two free throws, but Johnson got the offensive rebound and was fouled. He made one of the two free throws to tie it at 105, and Bey was called for an offensive foul with 3.2 seconds left. The Spurs missed a last-second look for a potential win.