Pistons road woes extended as 0-3 trip ends with 22-point loss to Cavs
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CLEVELAND – There’s an opponent that doesn’t appear on any of Stan Van Gundy’s scouting reports but is beating the Pistons pretty consistently right about now: frustration.
It was evident, even if invisible, in every nook and cranny of Quicken Loans Arena on Monday night as the Pistons – in a free fall from playoff position, having lost six of seven games coming out of the All-Star break – dropped their ninth straight road game, 112-90 to a Cleveland team that had lost four of its last five at home.
“I think the biggest thing is that we’re just right now really not giving ourselves much of a chance to play well because we’re playing so frustrated,” he said. “Frustrated with the referees, frustrated even more by the ball not going in the basket. We’re a very frustrated group right now. It’s very hard to play like that, so that would be step one.”
Blake Griffin had another very good night. Coming off of a 31-point outing at Miami – his best scoring output since joining the Pistons – Griffin came back with 25 points, eight rebounds and five assists with just one turnover against Cleveland. And he did all of that in three quarters, the margin lopsided enough by the time Griffin would have re-entered the game midway through the fourth quarter that Van Gundy let him cool his heels.
“He played really, really well again,” Van Gundy said. “I thought (Reggie) Bullock (11 points) played well. And I just didn’t think we got a whole lot out of anybody else. Not saying everybody else played bad – I’m not trying to point fingers; I’ll take the blame – but we just don’t have enough guys playing well. Like where the ball can swing and thig guy’ll knock down a shot, that guy’ll knock down a shot. Just not getting enough of that.”
Griffin and LeBron James played to a draw in a first half in which the Pistons led a good chunk of the way and were within five at halftime. But James drained three triples in three tries in the first five minutes of the second half as the deficit swelled to 17 and there was no comeback in the offing.
Both Andre Drummond and Griffin were hit with technical fouls, another sign of the frustration Van Gundy perceives – and his players acknowledge.
“I see it throughout the game. It’s not every possession. It’s not everybody,” Anthony Tolliver said. “It’s easy to hang your head in situations like this whenever you’re losing and you’re not making shots. I try to just continue to be encouraging to people to keep their heads up and keep fighting. That’s all you can do. We got a couple of techs today because guys get frustrated. We just have to continue to fight and try to get this thing figured out.”
The Pistons’ loss coupled with Miami’s win puts the Heat 4½ games ahead of the Pistons with just 18 games remaining. After two home games this week, the Pistons head out for a six-game road trip.
“We’re in a tough position right now trying to win games but it’s just not working out fo us, so the frustration of us not making shots is probably carrying over to the defense,” Bullock said. “I don’t think it’s the effort that we’re not putting into it. I feel like we are putting into it, but other teams are making shots and we’re just not making ’em.”
Van Gundy recalled his first Miami team that closed the season with a rush to go from 25-36 to the No. 4 seed by winning 17 of its last 21 games while the Pistons were there in the middle of their 0-3 road trip. And he’s still exhorting his team to keep pushing for a breakthrough.
“I’ve got total belief in this because I’ve been around the NBA for a long time,” he said across the hall from his team’s locker room at Quicken Loans Arena. “The thing can change and it can change quickly and overnight. I’ve seen it. I’ve coached it. I’ve had teams that have done it. So it’s possible to do, but the problem is it’s getting late so it’s got to come now. We need to get some wins and do it now.”