Jerami Grant game-winner ruled late, Detroit Pistons lose heartbreaker to Rockets, 103-102

Omari Sankofa II, Detroit Free Press
·4 min read

Win or lose, the Detroit Pistons do it in spectacular fashion this season.

Only two days after blowing a 17-point lead against the Atlanta Hawks in an overtime loss, they nearly pulled off a 20-point comeback against the Houston Rockets at Little Caesars Arena on Friday.

With the Pistons down one, Jerami Grant was set to take the final shot of the game. He got to the rim, finished and was bumped on the final play by P.J. Tucker, but the shot and foul happened after the buzzer. Instead of an exciting win, the Pistons left with a 103-102 defeat.

Grant shook off a slow start and finished with 21 points, eight rebounds, three assists and three blocks to reach the 20-point threshold for the 14th straight game. Delon Wright and Wayne Ellington scored 18 points each, and Josh Jackson scored 12.

Seven Rockets reached double-figures, led by Eric Gordon's 20 points. Former Piston Christian Wood missed his first game against his old team with an ankle sprain.

[ Dwane Casey on Christian Wood's great start with Rockets: 'I'm proud of him' ]

Wright, Ellington keep Pistons afloat

Detroit Pistons guard Delon Wright is defended by Houston Rockets guard Victor Oladipo during the first quarter Friday, Jan. 22, 2021 at Little Caesars Arena.
Detroit Pistons guard Delon Wright is defended by Houston Rockets guard Victor Oladipo during the first quarter Friday, Jan. 22, 2021 at Little Caesars Arena.

The Pistons had off-shooting nights from several of their key players. Jerami Grant missed his first eight shots and didn’t make his first until the 5:08 mark of the third quarter. Griffin missed his first five shots and didn’t register a point until midway through the third.

Wright had only crossed the 10-point threshold three times in 14 games before Friday, but he and Ellington — who’s in the midst of a hot streak — were Detroit’s most reliable scorers for much of the night. They scored the Pistons’ first 12 points, and near the end of the second quarter, they had a combined 18 points on 7-for-10 shooting. The rest of the roster was a combined 7-for-25 overall. They were a major reason why the Pistons were able to close a 20-point deficit to eight by halftime.

Ellington has been on an incredible run since last Saturday’s blowout win against the Miami Heat. After going 6-for-8 from downtown on Friday, he’s made 21 of his last 38 3-pointers. In his last three games, he's 17-29 from 3, tying a record with Joe Dumars, Allan Houston and Terry Mills for most 3-pointers made in a three-game period.

[ How Pistons will 'keep the village' around Killian Hayes as he rehabs hip injury ]

Turnovers helped to create an early deficit

During preseason, the Pistons were one of the worst teams in the league at taking care of the ball. They coughed up an average of 21.5 times per game during the four-game slate — largely a result of a mostly-new roster acclimating itself after a short training camp.

The opposite has been true since the season started. Detroit was averaging 13.9 turnovers entering Friday, the eighth-best mark in the NBA. But they regressed in the first quarter against the Rockets, and it was one of the key reasons why the Pistons trailed by double-digits for most of the first half. They committed nine of them in the first quarter, thanks to mistimed and inaccurate passes. On a few occasions, players just dropped the ball while catching it.

It was an uncharacteristically sloppy quarter, but it wasn’t a precursor for the rest of the game. Detroit cut their turnovers down in the second half, committing five. And they closed the half with a 22-10 run to trim a 20-point deficit to eight going into halftime.

The Pistons finished the night with 19 turnovers, still more than their average, but fewer than the total it looked like they would end up with.

Slow start doesn’t limit Grant’s aggression

Grant has, by far, been Detroit’s most reliable player this season. He had scored 20-plus points in 13 straight games before Friday, and hasn’t seen many cold streaks as a scorer. Friday was his first off night of the season, as he missed his first nine shots and didn’t have a field goal in the first half.

He still impacted the score sheet, though, by relying on one of his best skills — getting to the line. He had 10 free throw attempts before he got a shot to fall, and got eight of them to fall.

When he did find his shooting stroke again, he made his shots count. Grant hit a pair of 3-pointers in the third quarter, and the second one gave the Pistons a 72-71 lead, their first of the night, with 3:24 remaining in the third. With 1:49 to play in the fourth, he hit a 3-pointer, was fouled and missed the free throw. But it gave him 21 points, making it 14 straight games crossing the 20-point mark. After missing his first nine shots, he made four of his final six.

Contact Omari Sankofa II at osankofa@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @omarisankofa. Read more on the Detroit Pistons and sign up for our Pistons newsletter.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Pistons lose to Rockets after Jerami Grant's winner ruled late