The Pistons spent the entire third quarter storming to a seemingly insurmountable* lead, eventually reaching 16 points. They spent the entire fourth quarter doing everything they could to give the lead right back.
And it all culminated with a crazy final minute, which became a crazy foul, which became a crazy last-second shot, which became a crazy, confusing miss that looked like a make.
In the end, the Pistons escaped with a 96-95 victory.
But lets work backwards, like a real-life Memento.
The final shot
The Wizards had the ball down one with 12 seconds left. Bradley Beal drove the lane and kicked it out and the ball was eventually deflected to Trevor Ariza for a corner 3 attempt as time expired. To that point Ariza was 4-of-6 from deep. He launched his shot and looked like he sunk it, as the only thing that moved on the high-arcing shot was the net. I thought so watching on television. George Blaha and Greg Kelser thought so in the arena. And the Wizards announcers definitely thought so (Seriously, you owe it to yourself to watch that video).
But the shot came up short and just grazed the net. But how did the Wizards go from down 16 to down one?
The Pistons had given up the majority of their lead as the bench sputtered in the fourth quarter but with the starters back in Detroit had pushed it back up to 96-87 with 66 seconds left to play. Then an Ariza 3-pointer, Jose Calderon's first turnover of the game (more on that later), and another Ariza 3 and suddenly the score was 96-93 wth 34 seconds left and the Pistons had the ball.
Then Calderon inexplicably commits another turnover and Will Bynum is assessed a clear-path foul with 12 seconds to play. That gave the Wiz two free throws and the final possession. Ariza sank the foul shots but, thankfully, missed the final shot.
The good stuff
Now that we got all of that out of the way lets talk about the awesome performances of three Pistons -- Calderon, Greg Monroe and Brandon Knight, in his first game back since hyperextending his right knee.
I mentioned Calderon's first turnover late in the fourth quarter above but what I didn't mention that it was preceded by positively point-guardy 18 assists. It was the most assists by a Piston since Will Bynum dished 20 dimes in 2010 also against the Wizards.
On the receiving end of many of those assists was Monroe who had everything working tonight. He was using a soft touch down low, driving hard to the basket from the top of the key and even his jumper was falling. Monroe finished with 26 points and 11 rebounds.
And it was quite a return for Brandon Knight. The guard had missed the previous three games (all losses) after injuring his knee against the Bobcats. In that Bobcats game he was having one of his strongest outings of the year. The up and down Knight had 21 points on 7-for-11 shooting, five rebounds and five assists.
Knight picked up right where he left off. He scored a career-high 32 points and was all over the court. Knight was pushing the pace in transition and knocking down his spot-up opportunities. He connected on 5 of his 6 3-point tries against the Wizards and is 11 of his past 14 spanning the past three games. Shooting guard?
- Will Bynum was awful tonight and was a big reason why the Pistons bench as a whole was awful and why the Wizards were able to get back into the game. Bynum was 1-of-7 with two turnovers.
- Jonas Jerebko played more minutes (12) than Charlie Villanueva (10) but wasn't able to do much with it. Again, that has more to do with Bynum than anything.
- The lone bright spot on the Pistons bench was Kim English who scored 10 points and hit both 3s in 12 minutes.
- Andre Drummond, come back. The Pistons had no rebounding off the bench.
- Jason Maxiell played good defense most of the night and had four blocks and eight rebounds
- Seriously, Drummond, come back.