We should apologize in advance to the Detroit Pistons fans reading this story. While we find what Mario Chalmers did to be both amusing and spectacular, you’ll probably find it to be depressing and heartbreaking.
Against the Pistons on Thursday night, with the score tied at 101 in the closing seconds, the Memphis Grizzlies point guard had the ball in his hands and a chance to play the hero. In the next instant, the ball was bouncing freely, knocked loose by teammate Marc Gasol. But what could have ended up as a slapstick regulation finish instead turned into a Chalmers game-winner:
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It’s not the prettiest play you’ll ever see, and it’s definitely not what coach Dave Joerger drew up for his team’s final possession. It was, however, effective.
For a different perspective on the play, check out this fan-captured video from near baseline corner — but be warned, you might want to turn down your volume in anticipation of the celebration:
Chalmers tallied 25 points to lead all scorers. Matt Barnes came off the bench for the Grizzlies and went 6-for-6 on 3s.
It was Barnes who burned the Pistons on Dec. 9 with this game-winning halfcourt heave.
"(Barnes’) halfcourt shot, and that play right there, we had mistakes prior to that," Detroit’s Stanley Johnson said. "You can’t focus on that play."
Johnson led the Pistons with 19 points, and Ersan Ilyasova scored 17. Reggie Jackson and Marcus Morris had 12 points apiece, and Andre Drummond added 11 points and 11 rebounds.
With the game tied at 101, Memphis got a steal credited to Barnes with about 8 seconds left.
Chalmers brought the ball up the right side and cut to the middle of the floor, but appeared to be stripped of the ball outside the arc. In the ensuing scramble, Chalmers gathered the ball, gathered himself and leaned forward from the top of the key as Pistons reserve Aron Baynes dove for the ball, sliding under Chalmers’ feet.
Chalmers said he was thinking, "Where’s the ball? I’ve got to get to the ball."
"I was able to get to it," he said, "get a shot up and it went in."
And when it did, that sent Detroit to its second straight loss.
Memphis held a 13-point lead early in the fourth, but suddenly started missing one shot after another. The Pistons rattled off a 23-2 run, and the Grizzlies’ only basket in that span came on a goaltending call.
The rally gave Detroit its largest lead at 96-88 with 5:42 left. Johnson had a trio of 3-pointers in the fourth, including one with just more than 3 minutes left for a 101-96 Pistons lead.
Detroit didn’t score again and Chalmers carried the Grizzlies, scoring his team’s final seven points to hand the Pistons another heartbreaking loss against Memphis.
"That’s very tough," Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy said. "We just couldn’t finish. Couldn’t get stops."
Pistons: Drummond had his NBA-best 33rd double-double. … Detroit is 18-4 when scoring at least 97 points. … The Pistons outrebounded Memphis 35-29. Detroit is 19-8 when it outrebounds its opponent.
Grizzlies: The Pistons’ 15 3-pointers marked the 20th time this season Memphis has allowed an opponent to make at least 10. … Memphis has won 12 of the last 13 in the series and seven straight at home. The last Pistons road win in the series was the 2009-10 season opener. … Zach Randolph was in the starting lineup after coming off the bench in 16 of the past 17 games. He had 13 points.
GREEN TO THE BENCH
Jeff Green moved to the bench after 30 straight starts. He did not play in the second half of the Grizzlies’ previous game against Houston. "I can’t fault (Joerger) for that," Green said. "I wasn’t at my best. Today it was a new day, new game. I just came out and played aggressive."
The Grizzlies play the Knicks on Saturday, the first matchup since an off-the-court altercation between Barnes and New York coach Derek Fisher that led to a two-game suspension for the Grizzlies forward. Asked about Saturday’s anticipated meeting, Barnes replied: "I know I’ve got to keep my mouth shut because (Fisher) will run and tell."
Pistons: Host the Golden State Warriors on Saturday.