After their biggest win of the season, against the Milwaukee Bucks on Monday, the Pistons had some momentum on their three-game road trip, notching their first back-to-back wins since March.
The Charlotte Hornets didn’t let them stretch the streak to three.
The Pistons fell behind in the first quarter and tried to put together a comeback in the third quarter, but the Hornets hit a flurry of shots and used an 18-0 run bridging the final two periods, and they coasted to a 140-111 victory on Wednesday night at Spectrum Center.
The Hornets’ win was their 14th straight in the head-to-head series against the Pistons (7-29) and was fueled by Kelly Oubre, who had nine 3-pointers in the fourth period, setting a new franchise record for 3-pointers in any quarter.
It’s the most 3-pointers in any quarter in the NBA since Kevin Love in 2016, and one off the NBA record for threes in a quarter, set by Klay Thompson. Oubre finished with 32 points, going 9-of-14 from beyond the arc.
Coach Dwane Casey lamented the defensive malaise the Pistons showed early in the game and noted that they seemed to be relishing the big win over the Bucks.
“It’s the way you start the game. It’s us. We didn’t come out with the right disposition. We came out and we didn’t switch properly,” Casey said. “We talked about it all day (Tuesday), (that we had to) come out with the right attitude and focus that you have to have with a team that just got beaten two games in a row.
“That’s what a young team has to learn — just because you beat the top team in the league doesn’t mean jack in this league, because the next night, you have another gunslinger coming in. Tonight, it was Kelly Oubre.”
Trey Lyles had 17 points and seven rebounds, Cade Cunningham 16 points and seven assists, Josh Jackson 15 points and five rebounds and Saddiq Bey 11 points for the Pistons, who finish the back-to-back on Thursday against the Memphis Grizzlies.
Oubre made his biggest impact in the fourth quarter, but the Hornets got going early, forcing the Pistons to have to dig out of an early deficit.
“They were getting open shots and our switches were soft, and they took advantage of it,” Lyles said. “That first quarter really hurt us, and it changed the whole game. We were trying to fight back from that deficit we had.”
The Hornets (20-19) made their first five shots from the field, with Miles Bridges (19 points) hitting two shots and LaMelo Ball (12 points, eight rebounds and 12 assists) hitting a pair of 3-pointers to help push the lead to 10-5 in the first two-plus minutes.
Cunningham scored on a reverse to end the run, but Bridges added another 3-pointer and former Piston Mason Plumlee scored to push the lead to 11. The Pistons responded with a dunk by Bey, one of two free throws from Hamidou Diallo and a 3-pointer by Cunningham to get within 18-13. The three baskets came off of three Hornets turnovers.
The Hornets stayed hot from the perimeter, going 7-of-9 on 3-pointers through the first nine-plus minutes. Oubre hit a 3-pointer and P.J. Washington (14 points and eight rebounds) followed with another, which ignited a 12-0 run that stretched the lead to 39-19 early in the second quarter.
Micah Potter (eight points and six rebounds) ended the run with a three-point play, but the Hornets kept pushing, with a 7-0 run, including back-to-back 3-pointers by Terry Rozier (16 points and six assists) and Washington, getting the lead to 49-23.
The defensive focus that kept the Pistons in the game against Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks’ outside shooters wasn’t there against the Hornets, and the dropoff in intensity was the frustration for Casey.
“It’s one of those things where you have to learn how to compete each and every night, and we did not do that tonight,” Casey said. “This should be a great lesson to get your behinds beat after you have a big win, because that’s what this league is about — each and every night and consistency.”
The Pistons managed a 10-0 run, with five points each from Rodney McGruder and Potter, but each time they got within a 12- to 15-point margin, the Hornets kept kicking it into another gear. Midway through the third quarter, the Pistons got back-to-back baskets from Diallo and a three-point play from Lyles to get within 81-68, but Bridges answered with a 3-pointer.
The Hornets finished the third quarter with a 12-0 run and extended it to an 18-point stretch with the opening two 3-pointers from Oubre.
McGruder stopped the run with a 3-pointer, but Oubre added back-to-back 3-pointers, beginning his barrage of six triples in the first six minutes of the quarter.