A ‘full step back’ for Pistons: worst offensive game of season in loss to Nets
Nathaniel S. Butler (NBAE/Getty)
NEW YORK – The Pistons were 13-7 after beating Golden State on Dec. 1. Two nights later, they had their worst offensive game of the season, scoring 83 points and shooting 33 percent in losing to Oklahoma City.
It was the start of a stretch that saw them go 9-22 and fall seven games under .500, falling out of playoff standing.
Worst offensive game of the season until Monday, at least.
The Pistons shot 28 percent and lost 103-75 to Brooklyn, allowing the Nets to vault over them into the No. 6 playoff spot in the East. It snapped a five-game winning streak that was part of a 12-2 stretch which enabled the Pistons to go from seven games under .500 to three games above.
So now the challenge is to prevent this loss at New Jersey having the same disastrous impact on the final month of the season that the loss to Oklahoma City had on December and January.
How confident are the Pistons that won’t happen?
“Pretty confident,” Blake Griffin said. “We’ve played too good a basketball for a while now to let one game like that affect us. We’ve got to shake this off and be ready to play in Miami. It’s just going to be the same thing.”
Worth pointing out that the Oklahoma City loss started a streak of injuries that cost the Pistons several key players for stretches of games, the most serious being the adductor tear suffered by Ish Smith.
The Pistons are still in good shape, fully healthy and three games up on Miami, which holds the No. 8 playoff position, and four games ahead of Orlando, one spot out of the playoff race. The Pistons lost the tiebreaker to the Nets with Monday’s loss by virtue of Brooklyn’s 2-1 record head to head. The Pistons are 2-1 against Miami, so a win on Wednesday would give them the tiebreaker over the Heat while a loss would make conference record the deciding factor. At present, the Pistons are 24-20 vs. Eastern Conference teams to Miami’s 18-22.
“We know Miami’s going to come in hungry and we’ve got to be hungry, as well,” Langston Galloway said. “All three of us are fighting for the same position. It’s going to be a dogfight.”
Galloway’s plight on this night was symbolic of his team’s. He came into the game having made 12 straight 3-point shots, one off of Terry Mills’ franchise record and the NBA record Mills shares with Brent Price. But Galloway’s first attempt was an air ball.
When he finally made one midway through the second quarter, it was the first make of the night for the Pistons on their eighth try. They’ve led the league in 3-point percentage since Feb. 1 at nearly 41 percent and had made at least 10 triples in 14 of their last 15 games, making nine in the other. They went 8 of 34 at Brooklyn, 27.8 percent.
Was some of their offensive stagnation a result of befuddlement caused by a zone defense Brooklyn employed much of the night?
Dwane Casey didn’t want to hear that excuse. The Pistons have shot a few teams out of zones in recent games, including Miami coming out of the All-Star break.
“If you walk, tiptoe through the zone, any zone is going to stop you,” Casey said. “We didn’t attack it. We didn’t set screens against it. We didn’t move the ball against it. We settled for the easiest way out. We’ll go back to the drawing board. We’ve got a multitude of zone offensive plays but tonight I don’t think it was the plays. It was our execution of them.”
Only two Pistons scored in double figures, but Andre Drummond (13 points, 20 rebounds) and Blake Griffin (10 points, seven rebounds, six assists) both had make-you-mutter performances. Griffin shot 1 of 10 and picked up a technical foul in the third quarter, one he admitted he earned and intentionally picked up to show his displeasure with something Brooklyn’s Rodions Kurucs did. Drummond shot 5 of 14.
“They brought a tough mindset, a much more physical game, and we just didn’t respond until it was too late,” Griffin said. “We just didn’t have great shot selection. We had open shots at times; we just didn’t take them. But it was just us.”
If you were an amateur psychologist and a student of the NBA’s rhythms, you could almost see this one coming. The Pistons were playing their third game in four nights and a back to back against a Brooklyn team that played on Saturday but had been off on Friday and Sunday. And the Nets knew it would be their last home game until March 30 with seven straight road games awaiting them – all against winning teams save for a March 22 game at the Los Angeles Lakers. A loss in front of that trip would have been dispiriting. If you were to peg desperation levels on a scale of 1 to 10, Brooklyn’s had to be at 9-plus.
“They came out with a lot of energy,” Galloway said. “They just played harder than us tonight. We really can’t say anything other than it’s our fault.”
He’d get no argument from Casey.
“We took a full step back tonight,” he said. “One day you’re the pigeon, one day you’re the statue. And definitely today we were the statue.”