Bleary-eyed and shorthanded, Pistons can’t overcome tepid start at Miami
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MIAMI – The Pistons knew what they experienced Monday night and well into Tuesday morning, turning what began as a scheduling challenge into a scheduling atrocity. Worse, so did the Miami Heat know what they experienced.
“We’re still flying, I think,” Dwane Casey said after the Pistons 117-108 loss to Miami that saw them fall 29 points down 19 minutes into the game before rallying within single digits midway through the fourth quarter. “It’s no excuse. Miami did a good job of getting into us. They knew we got in late, so they put pressure on. We still have to fight through adversity and that’s what life’s about. That’s what this game is about. And tonight was a good test for us.”
Arriving at their Miami hotel just before sunrise Tuesday, the Pistons played like you might expect a team that spent nearly four hours on the tarmac at Metro Airport would in getting circles run around them out of the starting blocks.
They were scheduled to fly to Miami at 11:30 p.m. after Monday’s home game, but after boarding around then sat waiting to be deiced before finally departing at 2:49 a.m., landing at 5:21 to hit early-morning traffic and arriving at their Miami hotel at 6:06 with the Eastern horizon over the Atlantic Ocean starting to brighten.
“There were a lot of positives, but we have to learn from it,” Casey said. “Our organization has to learn from it. Whatever the deicing plan is, something’s got to happen. There’s no way an NBA team should be leaving at 3 o’clock in the morning to get on a flight. That’s just not good for the players’ health, the health of the game. I know weather situations happen, but we’ve got to plan for that.”
As much as Casey preached and as fully as his players understood the importance of getting off to a good start to make Miami a little less comfortable, knowing it and convincing rubbery legs and bleary eyes to play at the level of intensity an NBA game requires are wildly divergent things. To compound their challenge, the Pistons had to play catch-up all night on Monday against Minnesota before navigating wintry roads and an overwhelmed airport to face a Miami team that hadn’t played since Friday.
“We’ve just got to come out with more energy, intensity,” said Bruce Brown, who established a career high with 11 assists playing before fans that watched him for his two seasons at the University of Miami. “They came out and hit us, punched us first and we didn’t do (expletive) about it. We’ve just got to come out with more effort, energy.”
As if the Pistons needed further hurdles, they lined up without their two stars who returned from injury absences against Minnesota, Blake Griffin and Derrick Rose, both sitting out as a precaution coming off of leg injuries. Andre Drummond’s streak of 11 straight double-doubles to open the season ended when he fouled out with nearly nine minutes to play with 16 points and nine rebounds.
Against all of that, the Pistons could least afford a tepid shooting performance, yet that’s what they delivered in a 37-point first half in which they made just 6 of 22 from the 3-point arc. Leading the NBA in 3-point accuracy at a tick better than 40 percent, the Pistons saw Luke Kennard and Langston Galloway each go 0 of 5.
“We can say we got in really late last night and it’s a back to back, but we can’t let excuses dictate how we play,” said Kennard, who rebounded spectacularly with a 22-point second half in which he hit 4 of 7 triples. “I thought we got good looks, (but) game-plan wise we didn’t really pay attention to detail right away, didn’t play with enough effort.”
Christian Wood scored 16 and Thon Maker 12 off of the bench. Markieff Morris scored 13 and Galloway rebounded from his frigid first half by scoring 11 in the second.
“I thought we competed in the second half, but it took the first half for us to wake up,” Casey said. “We can make every excuse we want to – get in at 6 in the morning – doesn’t matter. It took us a half to get going against a good team. I liked the compete level in the second half, but it’s the way you start and we put ourselves in a hole with the start of the game.”