It won't count for anything come next Wednesday's regular-season opener, but the Detroit Pistons finished out their preseason slate on a high note, earning a 99-98 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves at the Palace of Auburn Hills on Thursday night thanks to a timely shot by forward Josh Smith ... and a little bit of kindness from the basketball gods.
We pick up the action with 3.6 seconds left, Minnesota leading 98-96 and Pistons wing Kyle Singler set to inbound the ball:
Smith, who began the possession stationed next to center Andre Drummond, slipped an off-ball screen for a curling Will Bynum and popped to the perimeter, where Singler hit him with the pass. Despite being 27 feet away from the basket, the former Atlanta Hawks forward — who's not exactly known for being bashful when it comes to hoisting jumpers — saw Minnesota defender Derrick Williams giving him some space and, without hesitation, rose and fired. The long ball caught the front of the rim with 1.5 seconds and bounced high in the air before coming down softly on the inside of the heel of the rim and falling through the net as time expired to lock up the win. Just like head coach Maurice Cheeks drew it up, I'm sure.
On one hand, the make and the win — which gave Detroit a 4-4 finish to the exhibition slate — presents a positive end to the preseason, giving the Pistons something to feel good about heading into the team's Oct. 30 kickoff against John Wall and the Washington Wizards. Especially because, as Smith told MLive.com's David Mayo after the game, "We didn't want to go into overtime in preseason, either." (The Celtics and Raptors feel you, Josh.)
On the other, though, it was Smith's third 3-pointer in nine attempts on Thursday — that latter number, I'm guessing, probably has a fair few Pistons fans grimacing a bit on Friday morning as they worry about clangs to come. All told, Smith launched 32 long balls in seven preseason appearances, just under 4.6 tries per game, which is only worrisome if he doesn't keep making 40.6 percent of them. (Here's where we remind you that Smith is a 28.3 percent career 3-point shooter.) That's a worry for another day, though; on this one, the Pistons are coming off a win, thanks to the soft touch of their top free-agent acquisition.
Smith scored a game-high 20 points (albeit on shooting marks of 6 for 17 from the floor and 5 for 11 from the foul line) in the win, adding six rebounds and two assists in 34 minutes of play. He led six Pistons in double figures, including Bynum and Greg Monroe, who each scored 17, and Drummond, who kicked in 12 points and 20 rebounds.
Kevin Love (19 points, 10 rebounds, three assists) and Kevin Martin (18 points, four assists) led the way for the Timberwolves, who finished the preseason with a 4-2 record and begin the regular season with a Wednesday night home game against the Orlando Magic.
If the clip above isn't rocking for you, please feel free to check it out elsewhere, thanks to the NBA.
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