“I wish I could explain it to you,” Lawrence Frank said after the 90-74 loss in which the Pistons missed 32 of 35 shots to open the second half. “I can’t.”
The Pistons led by three at halftime and surely felt like they should have been up even more. Greg Monroe owned Orlando’s frontcourt, posting 11 points and six rebounds in the first quarter alone and finishing the half with 15 points. But an early 10-point lead melted away and they settled for the 48-45 halftime edge.
Then all hell broke loose. The Pistons missed their first 15 shots of the second half, turned the ball over to scuttle six other possessions, and trailed by 18 when Rodney Stuckey’s two free throws nearly 10 minutes into the half finally ended Orlando’s 21-0 run.
“Embarrassing” and “deplorable” were two of the words Frank selected to describe the surreal stretch of basketball.
“We just didn’t come out with the energy that we needed to, plain and simple,” said Monroe, who finished with 19 points and eight rebounds. “We just have to do a better job of coming out with the energy we need. We controlled the game for most of the first half and we have to continue that at the beginning of the third quarter.”
There were signs, late in the first quarter, of the Pistons’ resolve softening a little. Orlando, held to 11 points in the first nine minutes, scored eight on their final six possessions over the final 2:23. A critical charging call on Monroe when it appeared certain he would be sent to the line for two free throws with five seconds to go cost the Pistons a chance for an 11-point lead. Instead, a J.J. Redick triple at the buzzer made it a six-point game.
“That was a close call,” said Monroe, who protested at the time. “It could have gone either way, but a bad call can’t translate into an open three. I was taken out right after that call, so I don’t know exactly what happened, but that’s the kind of play that we have to prevent.”
“Big turnaround,” Frank said. “The other one, Greg went to the line, we missed the two free throws, they come down … it could have been 11, goes down to five. With that being said, we’re up three going into halftime and then, third quarter, the floodgates opened and we just never recovered.”
Frank tried a little of everything. He called his first timeout a mere 72 seconds into the third quarter after Orlando had scored three easy baskets to take a three-point lead. He called a second timeout just 5:10 into the quarter, by which time Orlando had taken a 62-48 lead on the strength of a 17-0 run. This time, he yanked all five starters.
When the dust settled, the Pistons had shot 2 of 21 in the quarter with six turnovers, getting outscored 26-8.
“We can’t win with the way we played,” Kyle Singler said. “We didn’t come out with the right focus, got stagnant on offense. We just had no rhythm and it hurt us.”
The Pistons are now halfway to matching the hellish 4-20 start to their 2011-12 season. Frank was asked if he’s contemplating any radical changes.
“We had line changes tonight,” he said. “We had guys going in and out. Those are the changes you make. You’re constantly trying to find different answers, putting guys in there to see if they can bring something different to the game. There were a ton of changes tonight. Don’t get caught up in the semantics of who’s starting. You’re looking to see anyone who could bring what you thought the game needed.”