Pistons Owe Orlando
“Those were two games we definitely had a chance to win,” Greg Monroe said after Tuesday’s shootaround. “They made the plays they needed to make to win those games. At that time of the game where it could go either way, in both games they made the run you need to win the game. We know we let two games slip away, but that’s a long time ago. We just need to win this game tonight.”
The Pistons were coming off their first win – an 18-point dousing of Philadelphia on the road – when they first played the Magic on Nov. 16 at The Palace. They controlled the majority of the game, leading by 13 at one point and by four headed to the fourth quarter, when they scored 31 points. That should have been enough to win by double digits with even a representative defensive showing. Instead, the Pistons surrendered 39 points and lost 110-106.
Still miffed by that loss, and fresh off a 20-point home win over Boston, the Pistons paid Orlando a visit on Thanksgiving eve, led by 10 points early and by three at halftime, then experienced a surreal drought to open the second half. They missed their first 15 shots while Orlando raced to a 21-0 start in what became a 16-point loss as the Pistons shot 18 percent after halftime.
“They’re an extremely high-energy offensive team,” Lawrence Frank said. “Even though they’re 19th in the league in points with 95 and change, they really work hard on the offensive end and when they defend well enough … they’ve shown, in LA, they beat the Clippers. They beat Indiana at home and were up 22 against the best defensive team in the league. They can beat anyone and they can lose to anyone, very similar to us. We’re going to have to be really locked in.”
At 17-23 instead of 15-25, the Pistons’ uphill playoff climb wouldn’t be at quite the radical angle it is today. They’d be just three games behind the fading Celtics for the No. 8 spot instead of their current five-game gap.
Orlando recently snapped a 10-game losing streak – two in overtime, five others by four points or less – with that unlikely road win over the Clippers. They’re dangerous but wildly inconsistent of late, losing by 29 at Washington, beating Indiana by 11 and losing at home to Charlotte in a recent three-game stretch.
“You look at their scores, they’re right there with every team,” Frank said. “They’ve had so many possession games. They have a very similar record to what we have. They had a little bit of a losing streak, then they go out west and it gets compounded. We know how capable they are. We’re both on similar planes and we have to find a way to win the game.”
Like the last time the Pistons played Orlando, Detroit is coming off of a runaway home win over Boston, Sunday’s 103-88 decision. It’s been two months since they last saw Orlando and both teams have evolved since then. The motivation to win isn’t about payback, Monroe said, as much as the urgent need to start chalking up wins against any and all comers.
“It doesn’t matter who it is or how we played against them previously,” Monroe said. “We want to win the game. Whether it’s winning it in the third quarter or the fourth quarter, we have to focus on doing it. If we’re up, putting a team away. If it’s close, finding a way to win.”