If you had told me three hours ago that four Detroit starters would pick up 20 points or more, and that one of their rookies would soar to a career high, I’d have assumed you were on some kind of high yourself. Shows you what I know. The Pistons have been out of playoff contention for some time now, and there’s nothing a lottery team likes better than thrashing one of their betters. There ought to be a word for that, and the word ought to be “Kentavious,” after Detroit rookie guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who, in addition to having one of the truly great names in NBA history, rolled up 30 points tonight after never having seen even 20 before. The Pistons led by as many as 11 tonight, though the Thunder clambered back to within one with just over a minute left, and at the :16 mark Kevin Durant threw it down to put OKC up 112-111. Then came an absurd little contretemps in which neither team seemed to be able to claim possession, ending with a jump between Durant and Greg Monroe, and then Brandon Jennings’ Hail Mary trey fell short at the horn. Fully half of Durant’s 42 points came in that fourth quarter, and as Kendrick Perkins says: “That’s what he do.”
It’s a good thing he do that, because the Thunder did not shoot particularly well: 44 percent, and a woeful 5-23 from three-point distance. They did, however, collect free throws: 41 of them, of which they made 31. (Durant had 13; Russell Westbrook had 12 among his 22 points.) And then there were those ten steals, six of them executed by Westbrook.
But the Pistons shot 50 percent or better just about all night, which explains four starters over 20. (Jennings wound up with six, more assists than points, and more turnovers than either.) Monroe scored 22, as did Andre Drummond before fouling out; Drummond also reeled in 13 rebounds, second only to, um, Serge Ibaka.) This didn’t leave much for the bench, which is perhaps as well: only Jonas Jerebko got more than 20 minutes, and he collected only five points for his trouble.
So the battle for the #2 seed is over. Who’s #7? The Mavs and the Grizzlies, competing for that very spot, tied at 93 after 48 minutes in Memphis, and with 1.1 left, a pair of Mike Conley free throws gave it to the Griz, 106-105, Dallas burning up three timeouts in those waning moments in a desperate attempt to get off a play. (Monta Ellis finally managed an unsuccessful 20-foot jumper, and that was that.) So Dallas gets to play the Spurs in the first round, and it’s Thunder vs. Grizzlies. Groan.
Oh, and Durant won the scoring title again. Is anyone surprised?