Killer Comeback

Cavs erase 16-point deficit, complete comeback on buzzer beater over Pistons

TEAM COLORS

The story of the game in Pistons red, white and blue

WHITE HOT – Dion Waiters gave Cleveland its first lead of the second half with a buzzer-beating 19-foot jump shot from the right baseline as the Cavaliers came back from 16 points down in the fourth quarter to beat the Pistons 97-96. The Pistons used two big offensive quarters, the first and the third, to lead by 14 in the first and 16 after three. But they scored only 14 points in the fourth quarter when they shot 6 of 19. Rookie Matthew Dellavedova came off Cleveland’s bench to keep the Cavs within striking distance, finishing with 21 points on 7 of 9 shooting to go with five assists. Josh Smith led the Pistons with 24 points. It was Cleveland’s second straight comeback win at The Palace. They trailed by 10 with eight minutes to play on Feb. 12 but won 93-89

BLUE COLLAR – Anderson Varejao has long had good games against the Pistons and he helped turn the game around when he came on in both the first and second halves. The Pistons led 21-7 when Varejao entered in the first quarter and that’s when their comeback started. In the second half, Varjejao entered when the Cavaliers trailed by 10 and he again sparked a rally. He finished with 12 points and 16 rebounds in 31 minutes.

RED FLAG – Andre Drummond picked up two fouls before the game was four minutes old and went to the bench. Greg Monroe followed him there three minutes later and Kyle Singler another minute after that. Neither picked up a third foul before halftime, but the rotation dislocation might have contributed to the Pistons’ off-kilter second quarter. After scoring 33 in the first quarter, the Pistons scored just four points in the first seven minutes of the second. They finished strong, hitting 3 of 5 shots in the final handful of possessions, to regain the halftime lead after letting a 14-point cushion slip away. But early foul trouble prevented the Pistons from putting this one away early.

Last time the Cleveland Cavaliers visited The Palace, it was John Loyer’s second game and the Pistons were headed for their fourth straight win. They led comfortably for much of the night and by 10 with eight minutes to play. And then things unraveled, the Pistons lost by four and went into the All-Star break staggered, losing two critical games on the other side to Charlotte.

That one will loom larger when the story of the Pistons’ thoroughly disappointing 2013-14 season is written. By the time the Cavs made their return visit Wednesday, the playoffs were a fleeting dream for both franchises.

But the magnitude of Detroit’s 97-96 loss was even more staggering. This time they led by 16 points after three quarters and still by nine with 3:38 to play after Kyle Singler’s 12-foot jump shot seemed to give them breathing room when Cleveland had chopped its deficit to seven.

Jarrett Jack scored the game’s next eight points – a 3-point shot, a long 2-point jumper and a conventional three-point play – to pull Cleveland within one with 54 seconds remaining. The Pistons then took all but 3.2 seconds off the clock, awarded possession after Josh Smith missed a jump shot with 28.5 seconds to play and given a fresh 24-second shot clock.

Brandon Jennings saw a 10-footer rim out in the final seconds and then – after a Cleveland timeout, consecutive Pistons timeouts and a fourth timeout, this one by the Cavs – Dion Waiters drained a 19-footer from the right baseline as the buzzer sounded.

“I thought the odds were in our favor,” Singler said. “Waiters hit a tough shot in the corner. I thought Rodney (Stuckey) played as good a defense as he could. We had a good feeling on what play they were going to run and he just made a tough shot.”

"They played their hearts out."

- John Loyer on the Pistons
Full game quotes
He sure did. Luol Deng inbounced the ball from the sideline opposite the Detroit bench. Jennings was on Jack and Stuckey guarded Waiters. With Kyrie Irving out with an arm injury, the Pistons figured it would be one of those two taking the shot, even though it was Cleveland’s third guard on the floor – undrafted rookie Matthew Dellavedova – who gave the Cavs a fighting chance by scoring a career-high 21 points and taking only nine shots.

“We had an idea of the two or three plays they could run and they ran one of the two we had diagrammed,” Loyer said. “The kid Waiters made a big shot.”

It was Cleveland’s only lead of the second half. The Pistons led 21-7 in the first quarter, then sputtered in the second quarter and fell behind by two points before Singler’s halftime buzzer-beater – from nearly the same spot where Waiters would win the game – gave the Pistons a 51-50 lead. They surged again in the third quarter – the Pistons outscored the Cavs 64-40 in the first and third quarters, but were outscored 57-32 in the second and fourth – then stagnated badly in the fourth when they shot 32 percent and saw Cleveland sink 5 of 10 3-pointers.

Aside from Dellavedova’s contributions, Cleveland’s guards were muted for three quarters. But in the fourth, Jack scored 11 points and Waiters and Dellevadova added six apiece, combining for 23 of Cleveland’s 31 and making 9 of 15 shots, including four 3-pointers.

“They made some big shots,” Loyer said. “Dellavedova was pretty good the entire game. I thought they got a couple of key offensive rebounds when we got stops and got some second opportunities and we didn’t get the stop when we needed or the key rebound.”

The Cavs only got two offensive rebounds in the fourth quarter, but they were huge. Both were grabbed by Anderson Varejao, who again hurt the Pistons badly with 12 points and 16 boards off the bench, sparking comebacks in both halves. Varejao tipped in a Waiters miss to make it an 11-point game with 6:50 to play, then grabbed a Waiters miss again with less than two minutes left to start a possession that ended with a Jack jumper that pulled the Cavs within four.

“We had a couple of bad possessions down the stretch where we couldn’t get a shot and they were just able to counter and get shots,” said Jennings, who went the distance in the second half and was having a terrific all-around game until missing all four of his fourth-quarter shots. “They did get aggressive, especially on the pick and rolls, and I think we were kind of rushing a little bit instead of taking our time.”

If you want to search for the silver lining, the loss strengthened the Pistons’ chances of keeping their first-round draft pick this season. A win would have put them a game ahead of Cleveland in the loss column. The loss left them with a 26-45 record to Cleveland’s 29-44 and means the Pistons still have one of the league’s eight worst records. The final dispensation of their pick – one they owe to Charlotte eventually – won’t be known until the May 20 draft lottery. But if they go into the lottery in the No. 8 spot, they would have an 83 percent chance to keep the pick.

That seemed small consolation as Waiters’ shot ripped through the nets and tore another hole in the heart of a team that’s suffered a jaw-dropping string of stunning losses in a season gone wrong.

“It was a tough shot,” said Jennings, who rolled his eyes to the rafters in disbelief as the buzzer sounded. “He made it with a hand in his face. What more could you say?’