Downed by Dallas
The Dallas Mavericks visited President Obama on Monday to be saluted for winning the 2011 NBA title. If White House staffers notice some missing silverware, chances are pretty good it was the Mavs who walked out with it. They stole the Pistons blind Tuesday, too.
Turnovers, a persistent problem for the Pistons through 10 games, buried them early against the reigning champions. After committing 10 in the fourth quarter Monday to undermine their shot at a comeback win over Chicago, the Pistons coughed it up seven times in their first nine possessions Tuesday to spot Dallas a quick double-digits lead.
Somehow, despite a series of almost bizarre halftime stats – four rebounds from the starters, and none from anyone other than Greg Monroe, among them – the Pistons still found themselves on the fringe of halftime contention, down 14. But the second half started and the same issue arose: four turnovers in the first three minutes allowed Dallas to push the lead to 20.
At 2-8 through 10 games, the Pistons find themselves groping on offense and leaking on defense, one side of the court’s problems compounding the issues on the other, and that makes it hard for all concerned to keep things in perspective and not allow frustration to drown them.
“That’s our job – we’ve got to see the big picture,” Lawrence Frank said after Dallas’ 100-86 win in a game the Mavs led by 28 in the third quarter. “You look at it, break down every possession from a game level, but from a macro level, where are we going and what do we need to do to get to where we want to go? As I’ve said, this process may be very painful. There are no easy answers here. This is going to take a lot of work. There’s no doubt in my mind we’ll get it right, but it’s not going to get right by getting right – it’s going to take a lot of investment.”
Tayshaun Prince, who struggled through a two-point, one-rebound outing in 22 minutes, admitted to some frustration and disappointment at the apparent lack of progress while acknowledging that as a leader, it’s incumbent upon him to not let frustration affect the group.
“At some point, even though you’re in a struggling process of trying to learn,” he said, “you want to see some signs on a consistent basis and you’re not seeing those signs right now. The signs pretty much showed in (Monday’s) Chicago game, in spurts. Then you come back today and you don’t really see it at all. Yeah, there’s frustration.”
Dallas got 13 of its first 15 points off Pistons turnovers and led 15-4 less than five minutes into the game. The Pistons cut a 16-point deficit to six before the first quarter was out, but every step forward was accompanied by two in reverse.
“You’ve got to take care of the ball to win games,” said Jonas Jerebko, whose play was emblematic of where the Pistons are at right now. The harder he tried, the faster his wheels sunk in quicksand. Jerebko got slapped with two quick fouls and never really could settle in to try to put the shackles on Dirk Nowitzki, who sunk 9 of 10 shots. “It got me out of my rhythm; let’s put it that way,” he said. “But there’s nothing I can do about it.
“We’re trying to keep our heads straight,” he said. “It’s early in the season. There are a lot of games left and we know how we can play, so we just have to stay positive. We’re going to get some wins. We’ve just got to stay together.”
The schedule turns slightly to the Pistons’ favor now. Of their first 10 games, nine were against 2011 playoff teams; their next five are all against 2011 lottery teams. But Frank scoffs at the notion that it should matter to the Pistons at this point, when they have to fix what’s wrong with them before they can expect to beat even struggling teams consistently.
“If you disrespect any team in this league, you will get disrespected,” he said. “We’re not losing just because we’re playing quality teams; we’re losing because we don’t deserve to win right now. By no means are we disillusioned.”
Disappointed, yes. Frustrated, trying not to be – or trying not to let it distract them, at least. Disillusioned, nope. The Pistons understand they’re not a very good basketball team right now.
“If we’re not frustrated by losing, whether it’s by one or by 21, you’re not a competitor,” Frank said. “So I would hope everyone’s frustrated, but when you get frustrated, you’ve got two choices. You either fight harder and understand what you have to do. And the other choice isn’t an option.”