Johnson hits late 3-pointer, Pistons beat Rockets 114-109

Morris didn't mention Marjanovic, but the 7-foot-3 giant spoke for himself with a career-high 27 points and 12 rebounds. Ellenson had also shuttled between the Pistons and the Grand Rapids Drive of the NBA Development League.

Stan Van Gundy chose to give playing time to Henry Ellenson and Boban Marjanovic over the season's last four games because, he said, "we hope (they) can be real contributors next year".

This was unlike the Pistons team many have watched this season, the one mired in a maze of haphazard play, mediocre shooting and bloated payroll. with a playing rotation dotted with youth and inexperience, the Pistons waded through another James Harden storm to beat the Houston Rockets, 114-109, before a sell-out crowd of 18,055 at the Toyota Center. "We defended pretty well for three quarters and then just terrible defense in the fourth".

ABOUT THE PISTONS (35-43): Detroit blew a 20-point lead in Wednesday's loss to the Toronto Raptors and its only wins in the last 12 games came against teams owning the two worst records in the National Basketball Association - the Phoenix Suns and Brooklyn Nets.

Harden missed another 3-point attempt, and Johnson added the free throws to make it 112-107.

"This was a really fun night, just the way we played", Ellenson said.

"I just try to go day-to-day and finish off the season and see what happens".

The Rockets looked to be in control in the fourth quarter, with their largest lead, 87-75, after a Euro-step drive by James Harden to end the third.

Then after falling behind by 12 points with 9:43 left, Marjanovic capped an important 10-1 run with back-to-back baskets to bring the Pistons within one. Drummond scored eight points on 4-for-11 shooting to go with nine rebounds in 20 minutes. Lou Williams scored the seven points in that span and Harden capped the run with a reverse layup.

Ish Smith has replaced Jackson in the starting lineup and drew praise from Van Gundy for being a player he can "really, really count on". "I just focus on winning games and playing and making sure we're in the right mindset and we're in the right vibe and right energy going into these next four games and going into what really counts".

Marjanovic on his career-best performance: "I'm more happy because we won this against a very, very good team".

He has struggled in 2016-17 since missing the first 21 games with left knee tendinitis and being hindered by the injury all season. Johnson scored 13 points, including a three-pointer that Stan Van Gundy called the most important shot of the game down the stretch late in the fourth quarter. D'Antoni said before the game that he'd limit him to 20 minutes in his first game back, but played him for just 13 minutes, where were all in the first half.

  • Julie Sanders