Things can turn around quickly in the NBA.
In the final minute of the third quarter, Cade Cunningham hit a 3-pointer for a two-point lead, and the Pistons looked to be on their way to another thrilling finish against the Boston Celtics.
That is, until the Pistons went cold from the field.
The Pistons went most of the fourth quarter without a field goal, finally ending the drought when Saddiq Bey made a driving lay-in with 30.3 seconds remaining. The Celtics cruised in the final period and took a 114-103 win on Friday night at TD Garden.
Cade Cunningham finished with 27 points, eight rebounds and six assists, Marvin Bagley III 20 points and 11 rebounds and Jerami Grant 20 points and three blocks for the Pistons (18-49), who have lost two straight games.
The last time the Pistons went a full quarter without a field goal was March 13, 2005, and they were heading toward matching that mark until Bey’s drive. Luka Garza also scored on a jumper in the final minute to add to the total, but the damage already had been done.
“They ramped up the defense and that’s the thing we’ve got to understand, that the fourth quarter is totally different,” coach Dwane Casey said. “And we had to give guys a rest.”
That was the difference in the bridge of the third and fourth quarters, as the Pistons’ reserves didn’t hold the lead. Part of it was them being shorthanded because of injuries, with several G League players seeing big minutes.
Jamorko Pickett, who had eight points, Saben Lee and Isaiah Livers have played significant minutes in the G League, but with the injuries, they had to play crucial minutes on Friday.
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Besides those two field goals, the Pistons managed to hit 9-of-10 free throws in the final period, while the Celtics (41-27) piled on 22 points in the fourth quarter and cruised to the win.
Boston finished the third quarter with a drive from Jayson Tatum (31 points, eight rebounds and six assists) and a lay-in from Derrick White (11 points and four rebounds) to take a 92-90 lead entering the final period.
The Pistons were shorthanded, with five of their key rotation players out because of injuries: Isaiah Stewart (knee bruise), Killian Hayes (adductor), Hamidou Diallo (finger), Rodney McGruder (hamstring) and Frank Jackson (back spasms).
“We’re short guys, but we can beat anybody, and I think everybody in this locker room believes that,” Bagley said. “Anybody can be beaten on any given night, and we have a great team.”
The Celtics had a 9-0 run bridging the final two quarters, with a three-point play by Tatum and a pair of baskets by Al Horford punctuating the spurt.
Bey and Grant each scored a pair of free throws to get the Pistons within 99-94 with 8:24 remaining, but the Celtics poured it on with a 3-pointer by Tatum, a jumper by Payton Pritchard and two more free throws by Pritchard to get the lead to 12.
The Pistons were 0-of-11 from the field to that point, and after two free throws each from Grant and Luka Garza, the Pistons were in the final minute, poised to go without a field goal for the game, before Bey’s drive with 30.3 seconds left.
The Pistons finished 2-of-15 from the field in the final period, and the score was lopsided, though the previous three periods were close, with no double-digit leads for either team.
Cunningham didn’t score in the fourth quarter and had 18 points in the first half, but he played 41 minutes due to the few options they had in the backcourt because of so many guards being injured.