Nightmarish first half digs deep hole as Pistons get buzzed by Charlotte
Kent Smith (NBAE/Getty)
CHARLOTTE – Stan Van Gundy didn’t intend to have both Andre Drummond and Blake Griffin off the court at the same time for anything approaching an extended period. And, in fact, he didn’t.
It was barely three minutes of the second quarter – long enough for the game to slip away, as it turned out.
The memory of Friday night and Boston’s 65-21 bench domination fresh, perhaps Van Gundy passed on earlier chances to take Griffin out of the game. It’s usually well before 10 minutes have lapsed, which is when he summoned Anthony Tolliver to get Griffin in Sunday’s 114-98 loss to Charlotte.
“We’re just having so much trouble when we go to the bench,” Van Gundy said. “And we were playing decent there for a while, so we tried to run it out. And then we ended up with all five bench guys in there and it collapsed and then we couldn’t get it back.”
That’s it, in a nutshell. The Pistons trailed by four with three minutes left in the first quarter, by eight when Griffin sat and by 13 two minutes later at the first-quarter buzzer. Drummond joined him on the bench to start the second quarter. When Van Gundy rushed Griffin back into the game at the 8:44 mark of the second quarter, the deficit had swelled to 21.
The three minutes Van Gundy went without one of his two star big men on the court saw the Pistons’ chances for getting a much-needed road win – they’ve won once on the road since Reggie Jackson went down on Dec. 26 – greatly diminished. For the second straight game, the Pistons gave up 38 points in the second quarter and went to halftime in a big hole.
“Second quarter again decided the game,” Drummond said. “Honestly, this needs to stop. Can’t keep going in games where we’re down 15, 20 points before halftime. Try to make a fight and come back, but it’s the NBA. Teams are going to keep going. They’re going to stay hot and get themselves going. The sooner we figure that out, the better for us. We still have a chance to make some noise.”
It wasn’t all about Van Gundy’s bench, though. Charlotte dissected the Pistons in a first half in which it scored 36 of its 70 points in the paint while also knocking down 8 of 17 from the 3-point arc. Between lob dunks over the defense to Dwight Howard and back-door cuts for layups, the Hornets had the Pistons guessing and groping.
“We did a really poor job on their pick and rolls,” Van Gundy said. “Really, really poor.”
There were plenty of execution breakdowns, evident by Van Gundy burning three timeouts in a span of less than five minutes of the second quarter.
“I talked to Blake earlier. I made a couple of mistakes by not being the low man,” Ish Smith admitted. “With bumping Dwight, he got a couple of easy little lobs. Once we kept that under control, then they started spreading out for threes. They played well tonight and they played with a lot of energy, with a lot of freedom and came at us. We weathered the storm a little in the third and closed it out well in the fourth, but the second quarter was the biggest deal. We’ve got to do a better job of that.”
“Guys weren’t pulling in. Made my job really tough,” Drummond said. “I had to gauge how hard I had to be up on the pick and roll and how quickly I needed to retreat to get back to Dwight because he rolls really quick. Just tough matchups for everybody to handle. They were hitting on all cylinders, so it was a tough night overall for us.”