Why can’t the Pistons win the fourth quarter?

Mar 13, 2022; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Detroit Pistons guard Cade Cunningham (2) passes over LA Clippers center Isaiah Hartenstein (55) in the second half at Little Caesars Arena. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 13, 2022; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Detroit Pistons guard Cade Cunningham (2) passes over LA Clippers center Isaiah Hartenstein (55) in the second half at Little Caesars Arena. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports /
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  • The Detroit Pistons have shown they can now play with anybody. But poor fourth quarters are hurting their ability to actually win these close, competitive games.

You can bet on the Detroit Pistons being in a game until the end. Actually, betting on them would have been a financially smart move of late. Detroit has covered the spread in its last 10 games. WynnBet and other gambling establishments still think of the Pistons as that sad sack team of earlier in the season, when blowout losses were plentiful, and defeats in general were the norm.

WIth some good health (until recently) plus some months of actually playing together, Detroit has been competitive in games pretty much since the win over the Boston Celtics right before the All-Star Game.

The Pistons overall have one of the worst records in the NBA, but, since that Celtics game, they are 6-5. If they did that well for the entire season, they would be in the Play-in tournament.

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And the most promising thing is, Detroit could actually have had a couple more wins if it had played better in the fourth period.

Fourth period problems for Detroit Pistons

During this time of success, Detroit has not lost a game by more than 11 points, much better results than earlier, when an injury-ravaged and inexperienced team regularly got blown out.

In three straight losses to the Bulls, Celtics and Clippers, the Pistons had a chance to win every one of those games, and maybe should have, if not for fourth quarter woes:

  • Detroit held a seven-point lead entering the fourth period against the Bulls, but DeMar Derozan turned on his shooting game, while Detroit made just 6 of 20 shots, and they lost by six.
  • The Pistons were in a back-and-forth battle with the Celtics, trailing by just two going into the final quarter. The Pistons proceeded to make just two shots (Yikes!) in the entire period and Boston pulled away to a 12-point victory.
  • The Pistons pounded the Clippers in the first half, taking a 53-39 lead into halftime. The Clippers are known for their resilience, and for having a lot of ex-Pistons as they rallied. However, Detroit still held a five-point lead after the first play of the fourth quarter. This time, it was defense that let Detroit down, as the Clippers shot 74-percent from the field to get the win.

One of the hallmarks of Detroit’s recent wins were their toughness down the stretch. While many young teams wilt under the pressure of a tight game in the fourth period, the Pistons were more than willing to trade blows with the opposition, and, pull out a victory.

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There are probably two reasons the Pistons now struggle in the final period;

  1. Injuries: One of the major reasons Detroit was successful was that they, finally, had almost their entire roster healthy and available, Instead of mixing and matching to cover up a short-handed roster, coach Dwane Casey was able to play lineups he thought could win the game. Unfortunately, the injury bug bit again, with Hamidou Diallo, Killian Hayes, Frank Jackson, Rodney McGruder and Isaiah Stewart missing games due to injury, Lack of depth means tired legs in the fourth quarter.

Cade Cunningham is playing over 40 minutes a game, as the Pistons have few other guards available. The bench has not played well during this three-game losing streak. Of course, who compose the bench is not the normal crew.

2. R-E-S-P-EC-T: With their new-found winning ways, team’s are looking at the Pistons in a whole different light. Detroit was penciled in as a game they could rest a starter or two but, after wins over Boston, Cleveland, Toronto and Atlanta, teams who will be in the postseason, opponents are coming in ready for a battle. No one is taking Detroit lightly anymore, despite the overall record.

Cunningham thinks it is just a matter of doing  some small adjustments, as he told NBA.com after the Clippers game, and Detroit should be a tough fourth quarter team again:

"“It’s the little things we can clean up, for sure,” Cunningham said of all of a sudden not winning the close games. “But we’re competing. We’ve just got to keep that up and if we keep on trying to give just a little more, things will start going our way.”"

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One thing is for sure, the Pistons are far more watchable than they were at the start of the season. You pretty much now know they will be in the game until the end. If their recent fourth quarter woes can be solved, they might also notch a few more victories.