When the Detroit Pistons miss the playoffs in four months, remember this 14-day stretch.
It’s when the Charlotte Hornets stole their soul.
The Pistons lost, again. They blew a late lead to the Hornets, again. They had a chance to tie the game, again. And they found a way to blow it, wait for it, again. Detroit is now 0-3 against the Hornets, each loss worse than the last.
This is a bad team — for sure now, probably later — and somehow the debut of their all-red City Edition uniforms wasn’t the ugliest thing to hit the floor at Little Ceasars Arena as the team self-destructed in a 110-107 loss to Charlotte on Friday night.
Where to begin?
The Pistons appeared to have finally put the Hornets to bed midway through the fourth quarter. Langston Galloway, quiet all night outside of his half-court heave that nearly tied the game at the buzzer, hit his lone shot — a corner triple — and drew a foul and hit the freebie to give Detroit a 99-95 lead.
Luke Kennard, who led the starters with 19 points, followed with 5 points to make it 103-95 with 5:25 to go. The Pistons would score just 5 more points the rest of the way as Charlotte ended the game on a 15-4 run, capped off by Devonte’ Graham’s triple.
Derrick Rose, who was the Pistons’ best offensive threat with 23 points, blew the defensive assignment on the Graham make, getting stuck on a screen as Andre Drummond waffled between playing back or contesting.
Drummond had a nice night with 15 points and 19 boards, but he was outplayed late by the mighty Bismack Biyombo. Down 108-107 in the final minute, Biyombo (13 points, 9 rebounds, 2 blocks) obliterated a Drummond put-back dunk that would have given the Pistons a lead.
It wasn’t much better for Blake Griffin, who scored 17 points but was vastly outplayed by PJ Washington. The rookie out of Kentucky gave the Pistons fits, scoring 26 points to go with 5 rebounds, 4 steals and 3 assists. He single-handedly led Charlotte back late.
Charlotte is a weird matchup for the Pistons. They’re big, but not too big. They’ve got talented, quick guards who can shoot and create. The Pistons have guards that cannot guard. They also boast a set of forwards in Washington and Miles Bridges, tweeners in every way, who give the Pistons’ traditional big men trouble.
It’s been a common theme throughout these games: neither team can get a stop against the other, whoever figures it out late will win. The Hornets have figured it out. The Pistons have not.
Detroit actually avoided the same traps that have killed them this season. They out-rebounded the Hornets by 8 and they only turned it over 13 times. But Drummond and Griffin turned it over three times in the final three minutes, fueling the Hornets’ comeback.
It’s highly unlikely that the Pistons-Hornets tiebreaker has any playoff implications. That says something about both squads. Maybe it’ll help Detroit when both of these teams are battling for late-lottery positioning, but neither of these teams are playoff teams right now.
Friday represented a chance for the Pistons to get a monkey off their back in beating the Hornets, a team they’ve incredibly lost nine-straight games to despite Charlotte never once being a playoff team in that span.
Two bad teams played a basketball game on Friday night, and one feels like it’s moving in the right direction while the other is going the wrong way.
I’ll let y’all figure out which is which.