If the NBA only played three quarters, the Detroit Pistons would have back-to-back wins against contenders in both conferences.
Unfortunately, there’s a fourth quarter. And the Pistons are still learning how to close it.
Behind a big game from Tyler Herro, the Miami Heat came from behind in the final period to defeat the Pistons at Little Caesars Arena, 100-92. Detroit led Miami 76-67 after the third quarter, and outplayed the Heat most of the way up until that point. But Herro caught fire in the fourth, helping the Heat outscore the Pistons by 17 points in the final 12 minutes.
It was Detroit’s second-straight late collapse after falling to the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday.
Jerami Grant led the Pistons with 21 points, and Saddiq Bey added 15. Cory Joseph (nine points, nine assists), Frank Jackson (13 points) and Hamidou Diallo buoyed the Pistons’ bench. Luka Garza received his first start and scored seven points in 17 minutes. Herro led all scorers with 31 points.
After logging a triple-double on Sunday, Cunningham had an off-night Tuesday with six points (2-for-10 shooting), six assists and three rebounds.
The Pistons were without Isaiah Stewart, who served the first game of a two-game suspension.
Fourth-quarter collapse costs Pistons
Through three quarters, the Pistons were in control. Despite an off-night for Cunningham, they got big contributions from Joseph and Frank Jackson off of the bench. They out-shot Miami both overall and from 3 and moved the ball well, dishing 17 assists opposite nine turnovers.
For the second-straight game, the Pistons fell apart in the fourth quarter. Despite entering the final period with a nine-point lead, the Heat used a 27-6 run to decisively take control of the game. Herro scored 14 of his 31 points in the fourth, including 11 in the first six minutes. His second-straight 3 at the 7:42 mark gave Miami an 83-79 lead, one that they didn’t give back.
The Pistons’ offense has a tendency to go cold late. Cunningham, who has proven to be Detroit’s best fourth-quarter scorer through the early portion of the season, played the entire fourth but missed all four of his shots, all 3-pointers.
Garza receives first career start
The Pistons were severely shorthanded at center on Tuesday. They were without Kelly Olynyk, who is still at least four weeks away from returning from a knee sprain. And Isaiah Stewart served the first game of a two-game suspension after his altercation with LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday.
It led to Garza, the Pistons’ 52nd pick in the 2021 draft and only healthy center on the roster, getting his first career start. He struggled with foul trouble, but otherwise played some of his best basketball of the season.
Garza’s best stretch happened in the second quarter, when he scored seven consecutive points — two layups and a catch-and-shoot 3 — and then drew a charge on Herro to help the Pistons build a 10-point lead. Dwane Casey subbed Garza out early in the third quarter after he picked up his fourth foul, but he re-entered the game at the beginning of the fourth.
He picked up his fifth foul setting an illegal screen at the 7:54 mark of the quarter, and subbed out for good.
Diallo’s energy lifts Pistons
After falling out of the rotation a couple of weeks into the season after Cunningham returned from an ankle sprain, Diallo has been one of Detroit’s better bench pieces over the last week. Injuries to Hayes and Stewart have opened the door for him to seize a role in the rotation, and he’s maximizing it.
Diallo had his best game of the season Sunday, scoring a season-high 17 points on 7-for-9 shooting. While he didn’t score as many points on Tuesday, his energy was still felt. Diallo hustles and doesn’t need the ball to be effective, and it makes him an asset for a Pistons offense that has a tendency to become stagnant.
He had two plays toward the end of the third quarter that helped the Pistons stay in control. First, he positioned himself near the rim after a jump ball and immediately laid the ball in after it was tipped to him. And with 0.2 seconds on the clock, he tipped in a missed corner 3-pointer from Frank Jackson to extend Detroit’s lead to nine going into the fourth.
Contact Omari Sankofa II at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @omarisankofa. The Free Press has started a new digital subscription model. Here’s how you can gain access to our most exclusive Pistons content. Read more on the Detroit Pistons and sign up for our Pistons newsletter.
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Pistons fall apart in fourth, lose to Heat, 100-92
Source: Yahoo Sports