Charlotte, N.C. — The Pistons’ losing streak to the Charlotte Hornets is over.
It’s not just over; it ended in impressive fashion. The usual suspects helped the Pistons stay in the game all the way until the end, and a couple of unsung heroes helped make it a thrilling win.
Kelly Olynyk hit the winning buzzer beater, lifting the Pistons to a 127-126 victory in overtime on Sunday night at Spectrum Center, ending a 15-game head-to-head skid against Charlotte, dating to October 2017.
It wasn’t just the streak of four-plus years; it was also the Hornets’ lopsided 141-119 victory in Detroit on Feb. 11 that stuck with the Pistons.
“I think the only thing we looked at was they had 150 points against us in the last game,” forward Saddiq Bey said. “That’s the only motivation we needed.”
The Pistons (15-46) played a spirited game, one of their best outings of the season, with multiple big contributions, including 28 points and eight rebounds from Bey, who scored five points in the final minute of regulation.
Cade Cunningham had 12 of his 19 points in the fourth quarter and Jerami Grant kept the Pistons in the game with seven of his 26 points in overtime.
BOX SCORE: Pistons 127, Hornets 126, OT
Those contributions were expected.
Olynyk’s wasn’t quite as likely. His 20 points matched the total of his previous four games combined, and his winning shot came after he had sat for a few minutes since the last part of regulation. Hamidou Diallo added 13 points and six rebounds and Killian Hayes and Isaiah Livers six points each.
“I was really proud of our guys. It’s another step of growth. Twenty lead changes throughout the game and for us to stay resilient — I think we got down five in overtime,” coach Dwane Casey said. “A month ago, we probably would have hung our heads and hung our coats right at the end of regulation, but we stayed together.
“I really like the combination of Grant and also Bey on the court together. That’s been a project for us, to make sure those guys are interchangeable, and I really loved the way Kelly came in and finally found his stroke back. He and Jerami both have got their shooting touch back, but then the stops we got down the stretch were really huge for us.”
The Hornets (30-32) led, 112-110, with 1:04 left after a 3-pointer by Terry Rozier (33 points), but Bey answered with a putback after a couple of Pistons misses. The Hornets turned the ball over on an offensive foul, and in a scramble for the ball, Cunningham found Bey open for a corner 3-pointer, and the Pistons had the lead, 115-112, with 13.5 seconds remaining.
With the three-point lead, the Pistons chose to foul and give the Hornets two free throws, so Charlotte couldn’t tie it on that possession.
Miles Bridges (29 points, 10 rebounds and five assists) made both free throws and the Hornets were within one point. Cunningham was fouled and made just one of two free throws, for a 116-114 lead. Bridges drove to the rim and created some space while being defended by Grant, and missed the shot, but P.J. Washington scored on the putback, tying it with 4.1 seconds remaining.
LaMelo Ball (17 points, seven rebounds and seven assists) stole the inbounds pass and had a chance to win the game at the buzzer, but his jump shot was off the mark, sending the game to overtime.
The Hornets controlled the extra period early, with Rozier hitting a turnaround jumper and Bridges scoring on a dunk for a four-point lead. Grant answered with a jumper and Bridges converted a three-point play for a 123-118 margin.
Grant had another answer, with a 3-pointer, and after a dunk by Washington, Bey hit a jumper, to get within two. Bridges was fouled and made one of two free throws, and the Hornets led by three. Grant scored on a drive with 1:29 left to get within one, and the Pistons got the stops they needed, including corralling a rebound on a jump-ball to give them possession with 6.8 seconds left, giving them a last shot.
Hayes inbounded the ball to Olynyk, who faded to his right and hit the shot at the buzzer.
“(Olynyk) said that was his first NBA game-winner, so that was exciting to see. But also too, another game ball goes to Killian Hayes to see the second option,” Casey said. “Killian didn’t panic after Saddiq wasn’t open — and he found the second option, so his patience and his poise in that situation was huge.
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