The Detroit Pistons took one crucial step forward toward earning their first playoff berth in six years on Saturday.
Reggie Jackson connected on four free throws in the game’s final 20 seconds that helped clinch a 94-90 win over the Chicago Bulls, pushing the Pistons back into the seventh seed in the process.
Leading by two points with under 30 seconds remaining, Jackson attacked the basket off the dribble and drew a controversial blocking foul on Jimmy Butler in the process. After official review, the call stood, leading Jackson to calmly bury two free throws that pushed the game out of reach.
Jackson added two more free throws on the following possession to officially close things out.
“Every single bucket was important,” said Pistons head coach Stan Van Gundy. “Everybody who played contributed to that and it was a good win.”
With the victory, the Pistons move to 41-36 on the season, sliding one victory past the Indiana Pacers for the seventh seed in the East while simultaneously extending their lead over the ninth-seeded Bulls to 2.5 games with five games remaining.
Predictably, Saturday’s contest was a back-and-forth affair throughout, at times feeling more like a throwback slugfest more fitting for a grind-it-out era gone by.
The Pistons emerged victorious despite shooting just 42.1 percent from the field as a team while enduring a top level performance from Chicago’s Jimmy Butler.
Picking up the slack for an injured and absent Derrick Rose, Butler turned in a monster triple-double, racking up 28 points, 17 rebounds, and 12 assists in the loss.
While finishing just 6-of-17 from the field, Jackson’s four clutch free throws pushed him to a team-high 22 points. Tobias Harris scored 21, including a key tip-in with 49 seconds remaining that pushed the Pistons lead to five.
Updated Standings (playoff teams, if season ended today, in bold):
Additional Notes & Observations
- Despite cashing in on a must-win, the Pistons aren’t in the clear just yet. Three of their final five games come against two of the East’s top teams (two games against the Miami Heat, one against the Cleveland Cavaliers). In addition, Detroit will face the Washington Wizards next Friday, who remain within shouting distance of the eighth seed, standing three games behind the Indiana Pacers.
- Tonight low-light: Andre Drummond’s free throws. Drummond finished with 11 points and 11 rebounds but was limited to just 28 minutes of action after Chicago’s Hack-a-Dre strategy induced a 1-of-10 performance from Andre at the free throw line.
More to come…