Pistons can’t execute down the stretch in 117-114 loss to lowly Rockets

Detroit News

Detroit – The Pistons haven’t had many victories that would be considered easy. There was an opportunity for them to have one on Saturday, but instead Detroit relinquished an early 14-point lead to a lowly Houston Rockets team.

With two teams at the bottom of the league’s standings, the game was an opportunity for the Pistons to show they are further ahead than the Rockets.

Instead, the two teams traded double-digit deficits, setting up a pivotal fourth quarter.

With the Pistons down by one with less than two minutes remaining, Bojan Bogdanovic passed on a 3-pointer and drove baseline to find Alec Burks in the other corner for a wide-open 3-pointer to give the Pistons a two-point lead. Burks then split a pair of free throws to give Detroit a three-point lead.

The Pistons led 112-109 with 38.5 seconds left when Kenyon Martin Jr. challenged Jalen Duren at the rim and finished through contact for a 3-point play opportunity. With the entire arena booing, Martin missed the free throw and Rockets guard Jae’Sean Tate attempted a putback but missed. However, Martin grabbed the offensive board and scored a layup to give the Rockets a one-point lead with 31.6 seconds left.

Detroit trailed 113-112 and had an opportunity to take the lead, but Alec Burks got tied up with Jabari Smith Jr. for a jump ball. The 6-foot-11 rookie easily won the jump and tipped the ball to Eric Gordon, who was fouled by Bojan Bogdanovic and made both from the stripe. Down 115-112 with 9.5 seconds left, Pistons guard Jaden Ivey made a floater to bring Detroit within one. A couple of Rockets free throws later, the Pistons’ fate was decided with a 117-114 loss at Little Caesars Arena.

It was the first of two meetings against the Rockets (11-39) this season, the latter of which will occur in Houston on March 31.

The Rockets were short-handed without Jalen Green, last year’s No. 2 overall pick after Cade Cunningham, who did not play due to a left calf contusion. Aleperun Sengun was also a late scratch due to a non-COVID illness.

BOX SCORE: Rockets 117, Pistons 114

Without Green’s offensive production, Houston relied on an “all-hands on deck” approach with double-digit scoring from five players. Gordon led the Rockets with 24 points and six assists. Tari Eason added 16 points and 10 rebounds. Jae’sean Tate had 13 points off the bench. Martin tallied a double-double of 15 points and 13 rebounds.

Here are some other takeaways from Saturday’s game:

Balanced scoring early on: Before the game, Pistons coach Dwane Casey said his starting lineups would be “fluid” for the remainder of the season. With his latest group, he may want to see how it plays out. For the second straight game, the Pistons found early success with Alec Burks in the starting group. The Pistons scored 37 points in the first quarter, 11 of those by Jaden Ivey. Burks had six of his 11 points in the first 12 minutes and Duren also had six first-quarter points. The mixture of veteran and youth bodes well going forward, but there needs to be more consistency down the stretch in close games.

Second-quarter collapse: The Pistons led by 14 but couldn’t sustain the consistency on offense in the second quarter. It could be attributed to the team’s second unit and the lack of 3-point shooting early in the game. The Pistons finished 14-of-38 (36.8%) from distance.

Houston’s paint presence: The Rockets shot terribly from the perimeter, finishing with just eight 3-pointers on 27 attempts. However, they did find success in the interior as they edged the Pistons 70-42 in points inside the paint.

Diallo’s highlight reel: Diallo is one of the Pistons’ most athletic players and it shows in his explosive dunks. The former dunk contest champ took off plenty of times in Saturday’s win. Aside from his dunk package, Diallo also changed things on the defensive end. He had a chasedown block in the first quarter, which set up a fastbreak opportunity for the Pistons, an area in which they often thrive. Diallo is set to be a free agent this summer and if he continues to play as such, he could be a valuable asset to the Pistons or another team searching for a defensive-minded wing.

Bogdanovic’s rollercoaster night: Bogdanovic is the Pistons’ No. 1 scoring option. However, that wasn’t the case on Saturday. He struggled with his shooting, making just 2-of-10 from the field. The veteran forward didn’t make his first 3-pointer until late in the third quarter to bring Detroit within five points. After missing the mark from 3-point range, Bogdanovic’s frustration peaked after he attempted a shot in which he believed he was fouled. Afterward, he took an obvious frustration foul, which also resulted in a transition take foul. However, Bogdanovic recovered in the second half and scored 14 of his 18 points in the second half.


Twitter: @MikeACurtis2

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