Cold shooting dooms Pistons as they drop 3rd straight to hot Spurs

Reggie Jackson scored 20 points in the first half and finished with 27 as the Pistons fell to San Antonio.
Mark Sobhani/NBAE/Getty Images
by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

SAN ANTONIO – If 3-point shooting had played to form, the Pistons would have added San Antonio’s pelt to their wall where they already have those from road wins over the Clippers, Warriors, Timberwolves, Thunder and Celtics hanging.

But it didn’t and the Pistons, instead, have their first three-game losing streak of the season among a brutal month-long stretch of schedule that includes just one probable lottery team, Phoenix, among 14 opponents.

“I thought we had some good looks at threes that we couldn’t knock down and they did knock ’em down,” Stan Van Gundy said after the 96-93 loss to the Spurs. “That was really the biggest difference in the game.”

And, really, the Pistons could have lived with the 14 triples in 31 launches from San Antonio – well above the Spurs’ season average of 8.9 made triples and their pedestrian accuracy rate of 35.9 percent. When you hold a team to 96 points on their home court, you expect to win.

“That’s part of the game,” said Anthony Tolliver, who started for Stanley Johnson in a chess maneuver from Van Gundy that worked as Tolliver limited LaMarcus Aldridge to 5 of 17 shooting and 17 points. “We had some individuals that shot really bad. As a team we didn’t shoot it great, but you still have to figure out ways to win games like that. Not shooting it well against one of the best franchises in the game, tough to get a win on their court if you don’t at least shoot decent. Proud of the guys. We fought hard. Had a good three and a half quarters or so. But just wasn’t enough to get it done.”

Tobias Harris shot 6 of 15 and one of the misses was a potential tying triple at the buzzer that was heavily contested and didn’t come close.

“I’ve got to find a better way to get a shot up, whether it’s me or somebody else,” Harris said. “I take the blame for that one. We didn’t make a lot of shots that we normally make and that was the disappointing part, too.”

Avery Bradley shot 1 of 9, his only make part of a big three-point play midway through the fourth quarter that gave the Pistons the lead. Langston Galloway missed all three of his 3-point shots as Van Gundy used his starters more than usual when the bench was largely ineffective save for Ish Smith and Stanley Johnson, who recorded his first double-double since February of his rookie season with 14 points and 10 boards. But Johnson’s 4 of 10 shooting night was a few in-and-out jump shots away from being a sensational night – and another difference between winning and losing.

Even Reggie Jackson – brilliant with 20 first-half points, finishing with 27 – was kicking himself for his foul shooting.

“Missed three free throws and we lost by three,” he said. “I think we got some good looks we’re comfortable with. Unfortunately, tonight a lot of those shots we’re accustomed to making just didn’t go in.”

The Pistons have been among the league leaders in 3-point shooting all season, though they’d slipped from No. 3 to No. 6 in losing to Philadelphia and Washington to start the road trip and will tumble another rung or two after making just 8 of 27 from the arc. The Spurs ranked 25th in 3-pointers made per game but opened by making 7 of 8 and closed with four more triples in the fourth quarter.

The Spurs hit a good number of their triples late in the shot clock or off of loose balls, especially in the first half when they scored 13 second-chance points, and those are the shots that cut to a defense’s heart.

“They made a lot of open shots, especially the ones off of multiple defensive plays from us,” Harris said. “That opened the game for them a little bit and got them back in the game. You’ve got to give them credit for that.”

The Spurs got three triples apiece from Manu Ginobili, Patty Mills and Davis Bertrans off their bench.

“They make you play all 24 (seconds) and do a great job of moving the ball, moving bodies,” Jackson said. “So it’s always tough to locate them and run them off the line and keep them out of the paint.”

The Pistons avoided the one good half, one bad half plague that had dotted their recent play and cost them wins at Washington and Philadelphia. Van Gundy had no quarrel with their fight in this one or, really, with their defense – with one big caveat.

“Other than the threes we gave up, yeah,” he said. “Other than the threes, but the threes were huge. You give up 14 threes, you’re going to have a hard time. That’s what decided the game.”

FAST BREAKDOWN

Three quick observations from Monday night’s 96-93 loss to the San Antonio Spurs at AT&T Center...

1-A NIGHT OF MISFIRING – One of those nights where the Pistons simply didn’t make shots. They didn’t play a perfect game otherwise, but then when you play San Antonio you rarely do. But it really came down to shooting. The Pistons simply missed a bunch of shots they normally make. San Antonio, on the other hand, shot way above its norm for the season. The Pistons made 8 of 27from the 3-point arc, well below their typical 38.2 percent. The Spurs, who came in making 8.9 threes per game and shooting them at a 35.9 percent clip, made 14 of 31. The Pistons also shot just 15 of 24 at the foul line, the Spurs 12 of 12. Down four points with a little less than nine minutes to play and struggling to find anyone who could knock down an open shot, the Pistons suddenly ran off a 9-0 run on three possessions – triples from Tobias Harris and Stanley Johnson sandwiched around an Avery Bradley three-point play after he’d missed his first seven shots of the game. But the Spurs came back to take the lead for good with 3:39 left on a Rudy Gay three-point play. The Pistons had a shot to tie at the buzzer, but Tobias Harris’ triple try was highly contested and well short. Reggie Jackson scored 20 of his 27 in the first half as the Pistons built a three-point lead that stretched to nine early in the third quarter. But for a poor shooting quarter, the Pistons – who hit just 6 of 19 shots in the third – they might have built a double-digit lead. San Antonio lost at Oklahoma City on Sunday night, though Gregg Popovich rested Tony Parker, LaMarcus Aldridge, Rudy Gay and Manu Ginobili. The Pistons have now lost the first three games – their first three-game skid of the season – on a four-game road trip that wraps up Wednesday at Milwaukee.

2-LINEUP SWITCH – Anthony Tolliver got the start over Stanley Johnson, no doubt a response by Stan Van Gundy to inject more size into the lineup against the Spurs and especially to avoid having Tobias Harris in a matchup with LaMarcus Aldridge. Aldridge didn’t score until eight minutes into the game when he moved to center and drew a foul on Eric Moreland. He did most of his damage from the foul line, going 5 of 5 in the first half and 7 for 7 the game, but – guarded mostly by Tolliver, some by Andre Drummond – he shot just 5 of 17. It was a game where the Pistons surely would have made good use of Jon Leuer, who was given a joint lubrication injection by a Pistons team physician earlier in the day in San Antonio following a consultation last week with a specialist in Indianapolis. He’ll be re-evaluated in two weeks. Stan Van Gundy said the expected timeline to get Leuer back to basketball activity is two to four weeks with his expectation that it would take another week or so for Leuer to be cleared to play. Leuer has missed the past 14 games since spraining his left ankle on Oct. 31 at Los Angeles. The recovery was complicated by a strain of the peroneal muscle, the team said.

3-SECOND-CHANCE WOES – The Pistons have been a very good to elite rebounding team under Stan Van Gundy, owning in no small measure to Andre Drummond’s dominance. In Van Gundy’s three full seasons, the Pistons have finished fifth, second and 11th in rebound percentage. But after losses to Washington and Philadelphia to open their four-game road trip, they’d plunged to 15th this season and are getting narrowly outrebounded by their opponents for the season with a 49.8 percent rebound rate. The 76ers won by five points and outscored the Pistons 17-7 in second-chance points. Against San Antonio, the No. 7 rebounding team this season, the Pistons were again outrebounded 51-42. The Spurs also benefitted from second-chance points, scoring 13 in the first half alone and finishing with 15.

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