It’s been another long, disappointing season for the Detroit Pistons, but rookie Kentavious Caldwell-Pope showed some potential in the season finale.
The Pistons went into Oklahoma City to take on likely MVP Kevin Durant and the Thunder without Josh Smith and Rodney Stuckey. Interim coach John Loyer decided to start Caldwell-Pope and KCP showed why Loyer had faith in him. Caldwell-Pope made his first three shots and had seven points in the first quarter and helped the Pistons to a 30-28 lead after one quarter. Andre Drummond had 11 points in the first quarter as well.
To start the second quarter, Caldwell-Pope knocked down a triple and converted two free throws. Then he knocked down another triple for a 40-34 lead, hit another triple over the outstretched hand of Thabo Sefolosha, and he had a jumper for a 48-37 Pistons lead. Kyle Singler followed with a 3 and Greg Monroe had a layup to help Detroit take a 55-54 lead at the half. Caldwell-Pope had 20 points at the half. His previous career high was 17 on December 30 against the Washington Wizards.
The third quarter started as a free throw contest before the Pistons got a few buckets that weren’t from the line. With the score tied at 72 after what seemed like 100 free throws, Monroe had a layup, Drummond had a tip in and followed with a layup, and Singler had a floater for an 80-74 Pistons lead. Caldwell-Pope then had a step back jumper, Singler followed with a basket, and Jonas Jerebko had a runner as the Pistons led 87-79 after three.
The fourth quarter, the Pistons problem quarter all season, started off pretty solid in the season finale. Brandon Jennings had a layup, Singler had an And-1, and Caldwell-Pope had a ridiculous 3-pointer over Durant for a 97-88 lead with 8:56 left. Later, Monroe, Peyton Siva, and Drummond had baskets to give the Pistons a 103-95 lead with 6:23 to play.
After Caldwell-Pope drove and spun right around Serge Ibaka and Monroe had a layup for a 109-102 lead, the Thunder began to stir. Russell Westbrook drove right past Jennings and had a layup, Durant followed with a layup, and Westbrook hit two free throws to bring the Thunder within 111-110 with 1:06 left.
After Caldwell-Pope was blocked, the Thunder had a chance to take the lead. But Westbrook and Durant both missed two bunnies at the rim. Monroe grabbed the rebound and the Pistons had a chance to put it away. However, Monroe turned the ball over and the likely league MVP did MVP type things. Durant drove past his defender and jammed it over Monroe with 16.5 seconds left for a 112-111 OKC lead.
On the final possession, a mad scramble ensued before the Pistons and Thunder were forced into a jump ball with 1.6 seconds left. Monroe tipped it back to Jennings who launched a prayer at the buzzer, but the ball hit the front rim and the Pistons fell 112-111.
Caldwell-Pope finished with 30 points on 11/19 shooting, Drummond had 22 and 13 boards, Monroe had 22, eight rebounds, and nine assists, and Singler had 20.
One thing I want to point out, Caldwell-Pope finally got a real chance. When Caldwell-Pope started, he was never involved in the offense like tonight. Former coach Mo Cheeks admitted that he didn’t run any plays for Caldwell-Pope and forced him to hustle for his own buckets. You can’t develop a player like that, especially a player like Caldwell-Pope who was the main option at Georgia. Being the main option is why he won SEC Player of the Year last year. I think Caldwell-Pope can be a good player in this league and can be the starting 2 guard for the Pistons for a long time. This will be an important summer for him.
The Pistons as a team failed this season, but to talk about their failures would be for another article. Another 82 game season is in the books.