DETROIT: That’s two games at the Palace, two stunning fourth-quarter comebacks for the Cavaliers.
Dion Waiters’ contested, fadeway jumper from just inside the 3-point arc gave the Cavs an incredible 97-96 comeback victory against the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday after they began the fourth quarter trailing by 16.
It’s the second time the Cavs rocked the Pistons with a big fourth-quarter rally in this building. They trailed by 10 points with 6:20 left in the first meeting here, only to rally to win it.
Wednesday’s was even more thrilling.
The Pistons had the ball with a 96-95 lead and 27 seconds left, but the Cavs elected to play defense and not foul. Brandon Jennings missed a short jumper, Luol Deng corralled the rebound and called timeout with 3.2 seconds left, giving the Cavs one shot to win it.
They Cavs have struggled at times with inbounds plays all season and couldn’t get it in on the first attempt, forcing Deng to burn the team’s final timeout. When forced to get it in, Deng dumped it to Waiters between the wing and the corner.
With Rodney Stuckey blanketed on him, Waiters didn’t have enough time to make a move and instead went straight up with the jumper as the buzzer sounded. Waiters screamed and sprinted off the floor as his teammates followed.
Mike Brown was so excited he ran to the scorer’s table and began slapping high fives with the Cavs television broadcast team. Officials briefly reviewed the play, but it was clear Waiters beat the buzzer for the Cavs’ third consecutive victory.
It’s their second-biggest comeback of the season after rallying to beat the Golden State Warriors on the road a couple of weeks ago after trailing by 18.
The team that couldn’t win away from home earlier this season is now old pros at staging dramatic comebacks on the road.
Waiters scored 18 points, Jarrett Jack had 17 (11 in the fourth quarter) and Matthew Dellavedova had a career-high 21 points off the bench.
The Pistons outscored the Cavs 17-1 over a three-minute stretch in the first quarter to take a commanding 21-7 lead early. Just as they’ve done throughout the last couple of weeks, the Cavs fought back to take a brief lead late in the second quarter, but they couldn’t sustain it.
The Cavs went more than six minutes without a basket in the third quarter and the Pistons carried an 82-66 lead into the fourth. But they have squandered big leads all season and did it again Wednesday.
Left for dead only a few days ago, the Cavs are somehow still barely alive in the Eastern Conference playoff race. They are 3 ½ games out of the final playoff spot in the East with nine games to play.
Josh Smith had 24 points, seven rebounds and six assists for the Pistons, who slipped to two games behind the Cavs in 11th place in the East.