For the second game in a row, the Pistons fell to pieces in the fourth quarter. On Friday, the Pistons survived when the Nets simply ran out of time. On Sunday, the game couldn't end soon enough as the Blazers closed a 13-point deficit to force overtime, eventually winning, 111-109, when Damian Lillard scored a well-contested dagger over Rodney Stuckey with 0.1 seconds left.
Nothing you can do about that.
Actually, no, that's not true.
The Trail Blazers may be having a better season, but for three quarters and change, the Pistons were the better team. The Pistons out-shot (46.8 percent vs. 41.4) and out-rebounded (53 to 47) the visiting Blazers -- except when it mattered.
The Blazers had 18 second-chance points to Detroit's six in the fourth quarter and overtime combined. Robin Lopez collected four offensive rebounds in the fourth quarter and overtime -- and all of them came on plays in which Andre Drummond had a body on him. For as much as we celebrate the Pistons' young center, he may have been able to save the game by snagging just one of those loose balls.
That's not to say Drummond had a bad game. In fact, the opposite is true: he was brilliant with 13 points, 14 rebounds, three steals and three blocks. But the Blazers, who improved to 21-4, are a brilliant team, and to beat them requires a brilliant effort for 48 minutes -- and sometimes more! Perhaps Drummond was timid due to foul trouble, but there's no column in the standings for finishing with five fouls.
I realize I'm picking on Drummond, which isn't fair, because when you lose by two points in overtime, you can spotlight any mistake made during 53 minutes of play. The Pistons tallied 14 turnovers -- half of which came in the fourth quarter and overtime. Greg Monroe, Brandon Jennings and Kyle Singler each had two in that span, while Josh Smith had one.
Erase just one of those mistakes, and perhaps the Pistons win.
Rodney Stuckey had a chance to break a 99-99 tie in the final seconds of regulation ... but missed a six-foot floater. He had a chance to tie the game, 109-109, in the final seconds of overtime ... and fired a tough 20-foot jumper that bounced in and out of the cylinder, hit the backboard above the square and then fell through the bucket.
If he was that lucky with the first shot, he'd never have needed the second.
But it's never a single missed rebound or sloppy turnover or stroke of good luck at the wrong time that dooms a team; it's all of it together. And the Pistons always seem to commit one too many of those mistakes, even after dominating an opponent for long stretches early in the game.
"We gotta start learning in those situations," Chauncey Billups said. "We’re young as a team but I don’t want to see us use young as a crutch. We played well enough to open up a lead but we should play well enough to maintain it."
Funny enough, Billups didn't say that after Sunday's game -- he said it Friday, after the Pistons experienced a similar fourth-quarter power outage against the Nets. The Pistons were outscored 31-17 in the fourth on Friday; they were outscored 26-15 on Sunday.
Different day, same old sh-t.
"If this doesn’t sting, I don’t know what does," said Josh Smith after the game. "When I was in Atlanta and we were young ... we were in a lot of ball games, but late down the stretch we couldn’t figure it out, and then later we turned the corner. But those losses that we experienced at that time, they stung a little bit and they were also learning experiences."
He added: "I think that when we sit down as a team, [we'll] see what we’re doing wrong in late games, because this definitely was a winnable game.
"The game was pretty much won, but we found a way to not win."
• Despite the ending, there were some encouraging signs. Namely, Smith realizing that he's most dangerous in the paint. Check this out, it's a beautiful thing:
Smith scored a season-high 31 points by shooting 13-of-17 from the field, attempting (and missing) just two 3-pointers. He also grabbed seven rebounds with four assists, a steal and a block.
• The Trail Blazers shot just 7-of-26 (26.9 percent) from 3-point land. Were the Pistons lucky or good? Either way, I'll take it.
• Before hitting the game-winner, Lillard was relatively contained: he finished the game with 23 points on 21 attempts.
• Greg Monroe and Rodney Stuckey each scored 17. Brandon Jennings, meanwhile, flirted with a triple-double with 15 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds.
• The Pistons outscored Portland in the paint, 68-42.
• LaMarcus Aldridge scored 27 points on 25 shots, grabbing 12 rebounds. Robin Lopez also had a double-double with 12 points and 13 rebounds.