I noticed we didn’t bother to rest our starters for the finale. I suppose Scott Brooks had the same mindset I did: Better to go into the postseason on a winning note than to play it safe and risk going in on a 3-game losing streak.
The 1st quarter was close pretty much the entire way, as the largest lead established for either team was the Thunder’s 6 (17-11 with 6:11 on the game clock). Although the Pistons only led by 3 at most in quarter #1, it ended with the Pistons up 2 (30-28).
The 2nd quarter was where the Pistons started to take control. The Thunder never led in the 2nd quarter, and the Pistons used a nice run to start pulling away. Up 3 (35-32) with 7:59 to play in the half, the Pistons used an 13-5 run to establish their largest lead of the game (48-37) with 4:57 to go until halftime. Fortunately, the Thunder were able to end the quarter on a 17-7 run to pull within a single point at the break (55-54).
The 3rd turned into more back-and-forth, as once again, neither team could establish a double-digit lead at any point in the quarter. Despite the Thunder starting the quarter on a 5-2 mini-run to reestablish a Thunder lead (59-57) with 9:17 to play in the 3rd, Greg Monroe scores the next 5 Pistons points, only being interrupted by a pair of Kendrick Perkins free throws to reestablish a Pistons lead (62-61) at the 8:03 mark of the 3rd. And despite a Kevin Durant driving lay up off of a Reggie Jackson assist tying the game at 72-all with 4:24 remaining in the period, the Pistons ended the quarter on a 15-7 run to reestablish an 8-point lead (87-79) heading into the final 12 minutes of the season.
It wasn’t looking good for the Thunder in the 4th either. The Pistons lead was still 8 (105-97) with a mere 5:40 left in the game. Unfortunately for the Pistons, the Thunder turnaround was sparked by Andre Drummond committing two quick personal fouls on Durant. Those two quick ones added up to 6 fouls for Drummond, forcing Pistons interim head coach John Loyer to sub in Jonas Jerebko. This allowed the Thunder to end the game on a 15-6 run that was just enough to squeeze by the Pistons, earning them a 112-111 final that gives the Thunder a 59-23 record that will officially lock in the #2 seed. At 29-53 (29-52 before the meeting), the Pistons had long been eliminated, simply looking to play spoiler on the final night of the regular season.
Durant ended the game with an astounding 42 points, marking the 14th time Durant has scored 40 or more this season. That stat leads the NBA. Russell Westbrook was good for 22 points, while Serge Ibaka posted a 10-point, 15-rebound double-double. Jackson was good for 15 points off of the Thunder bench.
Piston’s rookie Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored a career-high 30 points, while leading all Pistons scorers. Andre Drummond was good for a 22-point, 13-rebound double double, as fellow Twin Tower Monroe was also good for 22 points. Kyle Singler’s 20 points rounds out the scoring. The bad news for the Pistons was that, despite playing a 9-man rotation, all 4 Pistons bench players combined for a grand total of 11 points. That’s bad, because that means one of our bench players outscored their entire bench by himself.
With the #2 seed locked, we officially draw the Grizzlies in the 1st round of the playoffs. Tomorrow, I will be posting a special series primer for the 1st round. Stay tuned.