Caldwell-Pope leads comeback, Pistons beat Hornets 114-108 in OT thriller

Feb 3, 2017; Auburn Hills, MI, USA; Detroit Pistons guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (5) dribbles the ball past Minnesota Timberwolves guard Zach LaVine (8) during the second quarter at The Palace of Auburn Hills. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 3, 2017; Auburn Hills, MI, USA; Detroit Pistons guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (5) dribbles the ball past Minnesota Timberwolves guard Zach LaVine (8) during the second quarter at The Palace of Auburn Hills. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports /

Hours after the Detroit Pistons refused to trade Kentavious Caldwell-Pope at the trade deadline, he rewarded them in a big way.  Caldwell-Pope scored 18 of his team-high 33 points in the fourth quarter or later, leading the Pistons to a 114-108 home victory against the Charlotte Hornets.

The Pistons’ outlook looked bleak for much of their first game following the All-Star Break, trailing by as many as 18 late in the third quarter.  The Pistons put a small dent in the lead at the end of the third, and entered the fourth quarter down 15.

Then the Pistons’ bench happened.  Ish Smith, Reggie Bullock, Stanley Johnson, and Tobias Harris all played with great energy and got the team back within nine points.  Marcus Morris and Caldwell-Pope entered a suddenly winnable game and closed the deficit to one possession late in the game.  From there, Kemba Walker and Caldwell-Pope traded baskets for several possessions until Caldwell-Pope made a three pointer with 18 seconds left that the Hornets could not match.

In overtime, Caldwell-Pope and Morris finished what they started in the fourth quarter, scoring all 14 of the Pistons overtime points en route to a six point win.

Noticeably absent from the fourth quarter and overtime were the two Pistons most frequently rumored to be on the move just hours before.  Reggie Jackson and Andre Drummond played a combined zero minutes in the fourth quarter and overtime.

Jackson and Drummond were benched, in large part, because of how poor the starters were playing defense.  The Hornets entered the fourth quarter with 85 points, and finished with just 108.

The Hornets’ small lineup, with Frank Kaminsky at center, forced the Pistons starters to constantly help on mismatches.  And, when the Hornets passed the ball out of help defense, the Pistons starters were in a constant state of confusion while trying to rotate defensively.

That confusion was aggravated by Aron Baynes being limited to 5 minutes due to an illness.  Without Baynes, the team did very little communicating defensively, and it showed in their sloppy defensive rotations.

The lack of communication was especially evident with Drummond and Jackson on the floor.  Both players had numerous defensive lapses, allowing the Hornets open looks on what felt like nearly every possession in the first three quarters.

Tonight, the bench had their back.  On the strength of its high energy and good communication, the bench’s defense began the Pistons comeback.  Then, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope took over and hit clutch shot after clutch shot.  Those clutch performances are happening more and more frequently for him.

And the Pistons’ front office is noticing.

REGGIE JACKSON. F. Reggie Jackson was bad on both ends of the floor tonight, scoring only four points on six shots. Jackson added four assists and two turnovers in a lackluster offensive performance. Defensively, Jackson was consistently out of place which hurt the rest of the team’s rotations.. PG. Detroit Pistons

A. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope struggled to find his shot in the first three quarters, but his 18 points in fourth quarter and overtime was the saving grace in what looked like a sure Pistons loss. Caldwell-Pope added nine rebounds and three assists, and played terrific defense in the clutch to help finish an epic Pistons’ comeback.. SG. Detroit Pistons. KENTAVIOUS CALDWELL-POPE

Detroit Pistons. MARCUS MORRIS. B-. Marcus Morris played great down the stretch, finishing the game with 16 points and eight rebounds. Morris’ strong late play earns him an above-average grade, but his poor shooting and sub par defense contributed to the large deficit the Pistons had to overcome.. SF

B+. Tobias Harris continued his great offensive play off the bench, scoring 25 points and dishing out three assists in 25 minutes. Harris added seven rebounds and provided a ton of energy for a team that desperately needed it for most of the game.. PF. Detroit Pistons. TOBIAS HARRIS

D. Andre Drummond got his usual double double, scoring 12 points and grabbing 13 rebounds, but his poor defense was a huge factor in the Pistons trailing the Hornets by 15 after three quarters. Drummond looked disinterested and confused most of the night defensively, providing little resistance to his Hornet counterparts.. C. Detroit Pistons. ANDRE DRUMMOND

Stanley Johnson made the most of his 16 minutes off the bench, scoring 7 points on 3-of-5 shooting. Johnson added an assist, two rebounds, and two steals. Johnson’s defensive energy was a significant factor in the Pistons getting just enough stops in the fourth quarter.. SF. Detroit Pistons. STANLEY JOHNSON. B+

Inc.. Aron Baynes tallied just one steal in five minutes. Baynes gets a pass for dealing with an illness tonight.. C. Detroit Pistons. AARON BAYNES

B. Ish Smith was instrumental in the Pistons’ comeback victory, dishing out a game-high 16 assists and pushing the tempo when the Pistons’ offense was scuffling. Smith struggled a bit defensively, but his offensive contributions far outweighed his defensive limitations tonight.. PG. Detroit Pistons. ISH SMITH

C. Jon Leuer played 41 minutes, many of which came as the Pistons’ center. Leuer struggled shooting the ball, scoring 10 points on 14 shots. He added nine rebounds and two assists. Leuer played hard but he struggled at times defensively, like most of the Pistons starters.. PF. Detroit Pistons. JON LEUER

B. Reggie Bullock played only seven minutes tonight, but he made the most of every one of them. Bullock had two big fast break points, added two rebounds, and brought great energy defensively in the fourth quarter. Bullock’s good play earned him critical minutes in the midst of a huge Pistons comeback.. SG/SF. Detroit Pistons. REGGIE BULLOCK

Head Coach. Detroit Pistons. STAN VAN GUNDY. B. Stan Van Gundy showed great trust in his bench tonight after they led the Pistons comeback. He was too slow to make some defensive adjustments. But, when he did make adjustments, the Pistons thrived. Van Gundy’s faith in his bench, even after all of the trade deadline rumors about his starters, was the difference in the game tonight.