The Detroit Pistons were done. Down 92-79 heading into the fourth quarter against what looked like a superior Portland Trail Blazers team, the Pistons were primed to drop to 5-2. Then they were going to head to Golden State for the third game of their West Coast road trip and they'd fall to 5-3 and the wheels would surely come off and they'd lose six of their next seven and talk of the playoffs would evaporate. Yup, it was all over for the Pistons.
Until it wasn't.
Reggie Jackson and the Pistons caught fire in the fourth quarter and outscored the Blazers 41-11 in the frame on their way to a dominant 120-103 win. And hope shines bright in Detroit.
Jackson scored 26 points in the fourth quarter and finished with 40 to lead all scorers and Andre Drummond was Dwight Howard reincarnated as he poured in 29 points and swallowed up 27 rebounds.
Damian Lillard had 26 points and 11 assists for the Blazers, who went ice cold in the fourth.
Portland was superb through the first three quarters, leading by as many as 18 putting up 92 points against a Detroit team that hadn't given up more than 94 in a game all season. They shot 65 percent from the field and had their way against the Pistons aside from Drummond -- who was dominating the glass and was the only reason the Pistons weren't down by more than 30.
The fourth quarter, however, was a completely different story. The Pistons were unstoppable. Jackson outscored the Blazers 26-11 by himself. Jackson was 11-of-12 in the frame. Detroit went on a 34-4 run. Portland turned the ball over 11 times and shot just 4-of-19 from the field.
While Jackson took over the scoring, Drummond was the star of the night. Along with his 29 points and 27 rebounds, he had three blocks. He kept the Pistons in the game thanks to his prowess on the offensive glass (nine offensive rebounds) through the first three quarters. And then he kept them in it defensively in the fourth with this monster block.
It is still very early in the season and this was only one quarter -- albeit a phenomenal one -- but the Pistons are looking more and more like the real deal. They have a stingy defense, some streaky scorers, and one of the league's dominant big men. They will drop some games on this road trip and they are probably not quite in the elite of the Eastern Conference, but they're a danger to whoever they're up against.
3 other things we learned
Kevin Love is finding his role in Cleveland. He's a focal point of the offense now, and despite a slow start against the Pacers, he scored 22 points and grabbed 19 rebounds as Cleveland won, 99-95. Love looked comfortable in the offense as he and LeBron James were in sync all night -- especially on the Cavaliers' final two field goals, both Love dunks assisted by James. LeBron James did his thing, too, with 29 points, six rebounds and four assists as the Cavaliers improved to 7-1.
Paul George had 32 points, 11 rebounds and six assists. Aside from the gaudy stat line, he looked more comfortable in what he believes is his natural position. He was hitting shots (11-of-21 from the field and 3-of-6 from deep) and attacking the rim (he hit 7-of-8 free throws). Plus, he was able to sneak in for some rebounds while Jordan Hill and Ian Mahinmi battled with the Cleveland bigs. George has gone off the last three games, putting up at least 26 point and grabbing 10 boards. And the Pacers have benefited. They're 3-4 now after starting the season 0-3.
Kevin Durant is a monster efficiently. Durant had 32 points, 11 rebounds and four assists as the Oklahoma City Thunder decimated the Phoenix Suns, 124-103 -- and he took fewer shots than Russell Westbrook. Durant shot 12-of-19 from the field, 2-of-5 from three, and 6-of-7 from the free-throw line as the Thunder outscored the Suns by 32 in the 31 minutes he was on the court. Durant looked like his effortless self against the Suns, but he's been playing well all year. He's averaging 30.1 points per game now and is shooting 50.3 percent from the field, 42.2 percent from deep and 88.5 percent from the free-throw line. He may have said Westbrook is the Thunder's best player this week, but Durant is just being kind.
The Miami Heat defense can be elite. Kyle Lowry had 15 points on 4-of-16 shooting and eight assists as the Toronto Raptors failed to get going offensively against an aggressive Heat defense that was firing on all cylinders as Miami won, 96-76. Justise Winslow, who had nine points and five rebounds himself, held DeMar DeRozan to just 16 points -- five below his season average -- on 5-of-14 shooting and Hassan Whiteside had a block party, finishing with 20 points, 11 boards and six blocks.
Their swarming defense forced 16 turnovers and held the Raptors to 39.4 percent shooting from the field and 15.8 percent from three-point land. No, they don't have LeBron James anymore and the Raptors were without DeMarre Carroll, but the way they were intercepting passes and attacking on defenses was reminiscent of those Miami championship squads. Coach Erik Spoelstra has the tools to put together an elite defense -- they looked the part against the Raptors.
Play of the night
LeBron James makes things look too easy. First off, having the kind of vision to make this pass is impressive. Second, he does it one handed. It's crazy that his passes are just as impressive as his dunks some days.