5-game win streak ends with a thud as OKC’s D stifles Pistons

Blake Griffin scored 20 points despite sitting out the fourth quarter, but the Pistons had little else going for them in losing to Oklahoma City
Chris Schwegler (NBAE/Getty)
by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

DETROIT – Maybe it was the third game in four nights taking a toll. Maybe it was a letdown after the high of smacking Golden State 48 hours earlier. Maybe it was just one of those nights every NBA team has a few times over the course of every 82-game season.

Probably it was a little of all of that and a few other things, like Reggie Bullock’s sprained ankle that KO’d him three minutes into the game and had the ripple effect of messing with the chemistry of a bench unit that had been superb over the five-game win streak.

Whatever …

“That wasn’t us tonight,” Glenn Robinson III said after the worst loss of the season, a 110-83 shellacking at the hands of the equally hot Oklahoma City Thunder, now 15-3 after losing four straight to open the season. “We know that. Everybody in the locker room knows that. The energy level, the rhythm, the team play – everything. Wasn’t our Detroit basketball, what we’re used to playing. But we’ll bounce back. No doubt in my mind.”

Oklahoma City’s calling cards are physical play and suffocating defense built around the immense – and immensely strong – Steven Adams in the middle and length at every position. The Thunder came in No. 1 in the NBA in defense by a comfortable margin and held the Pistons to a season-worst 83 points and 33 percent shooting.

“It’s very difficult (to score on OKC’s defense) but even against double teams – we’ve seen that all year,” Dwane Casey said. “And we’re standing, we’re floating, we’re not cutting with purpose and cutting with toughness. I thought we had it covered this morning, but evidently I didn’t do a good enough job of really, really getting guys ready to do it. So back to the drawing board.”

The Pistons missed a handful of layups in the opening minutes and were 2 of 15 from the 3-point arc and trailing by 15 points midway through the second quarter, yet got to halftime down by just 10, 50-40, when Blake Griffin carried them into the break by scoring 10 points in the final six minutes.

The Pistons continued to flail away offensively but stay within hailing distance for the first five minutes of the third quarter, trailing by nine with 7:35 to go. But over the next two minutes the deficit swelled to 19 and three minutes later it was 29 as Oklahoma City went on a 25-5 run.

“I don’t know what we shot (35 percent), (but) we scored 19 points – that’s kind of self explanatory,” Casey said of a quarter in which the Pistons committed six turnovers to OKC’s zero. “Against a team like that, you’ve got to play with force on the offensive end. You’ve got to have a sense of toughness and tonight, for whatever reason, we didn’t do it. Again, it’s on me. I’ll have to take the blame for that, for the team not being ready.”

“Coach Casey said it best – we came out in second gear,” Griffin said. “Coach can only do so much. We as players have got to be ready to come out and give a better performance.”

The loss ended a six-game home stand on a sour note after the Pistons won the first five, starting with an overtime win over Houston and continuing through Saturday’s emotional shutdown of Golden State.

“We’ve got to take the blame ourselves,” Reggie Jackson said when told Casey accepted responsibility for the flat performance. “He can only help us so much. We have to come out with a lot more intensity and it starts with me. I’ve got to come out ready to fight, ready to give us energy each and every night.”

Other than Griffin, the Pistons had nothing to hang their hat on. Andre Drummond had a four-possession sequence in the first half where he tried to force the issue and wound up missing a 3-point shot, turning the ball over trying to drive into traffic, missing a highly contested runner out of his comfort zone and getting another difficult shot smashed to the backboard by Adams.

With Bullock out with a sprained ankle, the bench that had played so well was broken up and struggled equally. Luke Kennard made his first appearance after missing 16 games with a separated shoulder but missed all five of his shots in 12 minutes.

All in all, a night to forget.

“You hate to end a great streak on a note like that, but it’s the NBA,” Grififn said. “We’ve got a lot more games coming up. For the most part we’ve been a team that’s played hard and been in every game. But we can’t have games like this.”