A late-stage flameout for Detroit Pistons in 121-115 loss to Houston Rockets

Detroit Free Press

HOUSTON — It’ll be a marquee weekend for basketball for Houston, as the city is hosting this year’s men’s basketball Final Four.

But the weekend tipped off with a basketball game on the opposite end of the spectrum. The Detroit Pistons and Houston Rockets own the NBA’s two worst records, and faced off Friday night. And to Detroit’s chagrin, the home team — sitting at No. 2 in the draft lottery standings — prevailed.

Thanks to hot shooting nights from Kevin Porter Jr. and Jalen Green, the Rockets defeated the Pistons, 121-115. Detroit was outscored 28-21 in the final period and went cold, shooting just 6-for-20 overall and 2-for-11 from 3 in the fourth.

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It was one of Detroit’s closest games of the season, as the first three quarters featured 20 lead changes and 11 ties. It was fitting, considering the Pistons and Rockets are roughly on the same timeline in their respective rebuilds and two of the few remaining teams in the NBA without a shot at making the postseason.

But Houston managed to ice the game late, as Porter’s seventh and final 3-pointer of the night with 59 seconds left was a dagger, giving the Rockets a 116-100 lead. Jaden Ivey responded on the other end with a midrange jumper, but Green hit a tough leaning floater to extend Houston’s lead back to six with 37 seconds remaining.

The final minute was preceded by a rough pair of possessions for Ivey, who otherwise had a solid night with 18 points and nine assists. He turned the ball over and was blocked at the rim by Jabari Smith Jr. on consecutive possessions as the Pistons faced a four-point deficit.

Marvin Bagley III led the Pistons with 21 points, Cory Joseph scored 17 and Jalen Duren had a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds. Porter led all scorers with 33 points for Houston, and Green added 32.

It was Detroit’s eighth straight loss, and 19th in 20 games. At 16-61 overall, they remain tied for the franchise record for fewest wins in a season with five games left.

Joseph stays hot from 3

After an uncharacteristically cold start behind the 3-point line this season, Joseph has been red-hot since the start of March. On Friday, he hit several clutch 3-pointers in the second half as the Pistons exchanged blows with a Rockets team that got a hot 3-point night from Porter.

Joseph’s first 3 came with just 3.5 seconds remaining in the third quarter, and it allowed Detroit to close the period with a narrow 92-91 lead. He then hit back-to-back 3’s midway through the fourth quarter, allowing the Pistons to take the lead once again after trailing by four points.

Entering Friday, Joseph was shooting 47.4% from 3 in the month of March. It’s a 180-degree turnaround, as he averaged 31.4% from 3 entering the month — his worst percentage since 2015-16.

Pistons solidify lead in Wembanyama race

With less than two weeks left in the season, the Pistons are guaranteed the best possible odds to win the rights to draft Victor Wembanyama. The three worst teams in the NBA will all have a 52.1% chance at staying within the top four of the NBA draft lottery, including a 14% chance at the No. 1 pick. The Pistons entered Friday 10 games behind the Charlotte Hornets, who had the fourth-worst record at 26-52 overall.

The only thing remaining to be decided is how far the Pistons can slide. With the worst record, they’re guaranteed a top-five pick. The second-worst team can fall to sixth, and the third-worst team can fall to seventh.

Houston now has 19 wins and sits 2½ games back of Detroit with just five games remaining for the Pistons.

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