Jackson, Jr. Drops 40 and Pistons Miss Buzzer-Beater Attempt in 110-108 Loss to Memphis

The Detroit Pistons blew a 15-point second-half lead and allowed Michigan State alum Jaren Jackson, Jr. a 40-point night, as they lost their 62nd game of the season – this time a 110-108 loss to the visiting Memphis Grizzlies.

Cade Cunningham, after a brilliant game where he scored 36 points, missed a 15-foot contested fadeaway jumper as the buzzer sounded, and the Grizz – without their two leading scorers in Ja Morant and Desmond Bane – celebrated their 25th win of the season.

“I wasn’t displeased with the defense because I felt like (Jackson, Jr.) did a good job creating contact. The way the game is called now, it’s really hard to just wall up on a guy that’s that big and just running it through your chest,” said Pistons Head Coach Monty Williams. “We could’ve made a few adjustments to go get him, but the few times we did, we either fouled him or he found (cutters) on the backside.

“Cade made the right plays, and down the stretch I told him ‘You’re going to win us a playoff game in that situation.’ I was OK with those looks. Our offense in the first and the beginning of the third wasn’t that great. There were times when we were a bit discombobulated. …We’ve gotta be better in that area,” Williams added.

The Pistons backcourt got off to a hot start early, with both Cunningham and Jaden Ivey scoring 12 points in the opening quarter on their way to leading Detroit to a 29-22 lead after 12 minutes. Also during the first quarter, though, Jalen Duren collided with Jackson, Jr. The Pistons Public Relations team confirmed that Duren lost a tooth as a result of the collision, and he didn’t return to the game.

The second quarter brought much of the same for the Pistons, as Cunningham and Ivey continued creating offense for the home team. With the score tied at 39 with 4:40 left in the second quarter, a Cunningham three-pointer sparked an 11-0 run over the next 2:20 to give the Pistons a 50-39 advantage.

Former Piston Luke Kennard was able to knock down a three to stop the run, and Jackson, Jr. posted 13 first-half points to stop the bleeding, but the Pistons led 57-44 at intermission despite having 10 first-half turnovers.

Outside of Cunningham (21) and Ivey (14) combining for 35 first-half points, the Grizzlies were ice cold from the field, shooting under 40 percent during the first 24 minutes. When the Pistons’ possessions didn’t end in turnovers, they were highly efficient on offense, shooting close to 60 percent.

Memphis fought back hard in the third after trailing by as much as 15. They managed to take a two-point lead on the strength of a dominant quarter from Jackson, Jr., who scored 21 of Memphis’ 41 points in the period. He tied the game at 78-78 with a free throw with 3:08 left in the third and the Grizz took gained the advantage a moment later. He and Cunningham continued their back-and-forth, though, as Cunningham responded with a pull-up jumper near the foul line to give the Pistons the lead again.

It was tied 30 seconds later as Jackson, Jr. buried a pair of free throws. After Cunningham was subbed out of the game, the Pistons bench, including Malachi Flynn and Chimezie Metu, scored buckets as the quarter ran down, putting the Pistons up 90-82 before Memphis’ Jake LaRavia sank a 29-foot three-pointer as the buzzer sounded, to bring the Grizz within five at 90-85.

After a slow start offensively to the fourth quarter, Memphis’ Brandon Clarke knocked down a long three and a layup after an offensive rebound, and Kennard nailed a step-back jumper from the wing in front of his bench. Not only did it ignite his entire team and force the Pistons into an immediate timeout, but it also gave Memphis its largest lead to that point, 99-94 with 6:42 remaining in the game. Clark, who finished with 15 points in 20 minutes, added another score after blocking an Ivey layup on the defensive end.

The Pistons ultimately were on the wrong end of a 19-6 run. Still, though, it was just a two-possession game, and after back-to-back threes from Detroit, including one by Cunningham, the score was tied again at 104 apiece. But Ivey and Metu each missed corner three-pointers in the clutch that would’ve put the Pistons ahead by one, and Cunningham was unable to match Jackson Jr’s heroics to send the game to overtime.

“I think being able to have the same mentality, no matter what the outcome is, is where you want to be. Obviously, you want to make those shots, but I told him ‘I can tell when a guy wants the shot,’ and he wants those shots; that’s what I’m concerned with,” Williams said of Cunningham’s final possession. “The outcome, we all want the right outcome for us, but I’m also looking for the kinds of guys who want those shots. He’s that kind of guy and that’s why we value him so highly.”

The Pistons now need to win five of their final seven games to avoid the team’s worst finish in franchise history.


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