CHARLOTTE – The Pistons would enjoy the four-day break between games the NBA schedule provides them infinitely more had they not suffered their season’s most galling loss on Friday.
But Malik Monk’s triple out of an inbounds play with just one second remaining to hand the Pistons their fourth straight loss, 109-106, doesn’t have any material impact on Dwane Casey’s mission statement for the longest break the Pistons will enjoy all season aside from the All-Star break in February.
“Defense. We’ve got to get our defense going,” Casey said. “Our offense right now is ahead of our defense and it still has a ways to go, learning each other and finding a way.”
For sure, the Pistons have kinks to work out offensively, starting with valuing the basketball instead of committing 17.5 turnovers a game to rank 26th in the NBA. But for all of that, the Pistons are No. 9 in offensive rating, buoyed by the league’s top-ranked 3-point percentage of .405.
But they’re 4-9 primarily because of the holes in their defense. The Pistons are 27th in defensive rating, 27th in opponent field-goal percentage (.484) and 28th in opponent 3-point percentage (.378).
“We’ve got a lot of work to do with our defense whether it’s zone or man to man. We’ve got to get a sense of pride and togetherness with our defense, man or zone,” Casey said.
One challenge for the Pistons so far has been a compressed schedule that the four-day break begins to address. Only Golden State has played as many games as the Pistons at 13. Going into Friday’s games, the Pistons were one of six teams to have played 12 games. Their cumulative record: 24-48. Only the Los Angeles Clippers, at 7-5, had a winning record. So many games so early in the season after a training camp and preseason shortened to three weeks in recent years appears to handicap teams.
“That’s why next week is going to be huge,” Casey said. “We’ve got three or four days we can practice. Before, there was one day in between. It sounds like excuses, like the other night (before their Tuesday game at Miami), getting in at 6 in the morning. Sounds like an excuse. But it’s going to take a while for our guys to jell together, work together, learn each other. With Blake (Griffin) and Derrick (Rose) back, for them to learn each other. It’s going to be a marathon. But it didn’t help with the few days off that we had between games.”
The Pistons will get a day off to treat injuries, bumps and bruises on Saturday, then likely have three practice days before playing at Chicago on Wednesday.
“Gives us a chance to practice and get a rhythm,” said Rose, who’s missed five of the past seven games with a sore hamstring. “We’ve played a lot of games. We started off with a back to back. So it just gives us a chance to really get our bodies together and just go from there.”
The Pistons came out of Charlotte with another injury to monitor. Tony Snell, who suffered a strained his flexor in Miami, was limited to nine minutes at Charlotte, all in the first half. Langston Galloway absorbed most of his minutes and finished with a career-high 32 points, hitting 7 of 11 3-pointers.
“A couple of good practice days to get getter,” Galloway said of the long weekend ahead of the Pistons. “Hey, we’ve got to fix this. We’ve got to fix this now, nip it in the bud and get back on track and get some wins.”