It’s their season in microcosm: ups and downs as Pistons hit the break with OT loss to Orlando
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ORLANDO – If you slept through the first two-thirds of the Pistons season, their last game before the All-Star break pretty much encapsulated all that’s happened to this point.
From down 22 points to up seven in the fourth quarter. Lots of fight, lots of turnovers, lots of missing players and – in the end – lots of disappointment.
“It’s been tough,” Langston Galloway admitted. “Just the ebbs and flows of the game. We’re up, go down, fight back, just try to nip away at it. It’s just a learning experience, but we’ve got to continue to fight.”
Galloway extended the game to overtime by draining a clutch three from the top of the arc after Orlando’s Nikola Vucevic – after missing his first six 3-pointers of the game – gave the Magic a 3-point lead with a triple that bounced across seemingly every inch of rim before falling with 5.5 seconds to play.
But in overtime, the Pistons – who scored 108 through four quarters against the NBA’s No. 1 defense despite scoring only 20 in the first quarter – stalled. They scored four points, shot 2 of 10 and committed three of their ghastly 21 turnovers. Derrick Rose returned after missing the previous five games but clearly was off his game, shooting 1 of 13. And yet with Reggie Jackson just as clearly gassed after playing 38 minutes, Casey put the game in Rose’s hands for the final critical possessions.
“He was out of sync,” Dwane Casey said. “I expected that. But we needed somebody to give Reggie a blow down the stretch. He had been in the fray a little bit. Brandon (Knight) hadn’t (played), so we went back with Derrick. Probably should’ve gone with Brandon, looking back.”
The offense had stretches of brilliance, closing the first half on a 30-12 run with a unit that included Markieff Morris, the last of five big men used in the frontcourt rotation. Morris finished plus-21 in 21 minutes in his second game back after missing five games with a hip injury and illness.
See a pattern there?
The Pistons missed have missed 215 man-games to injury over the season, behind only Golden State and Washington. Blake Griffin, Luke Kennard and Jackson have all missed endless stretches with Griffin out for the season after undergoing January knee surgery.
All those games lost have opened opportunities for young players as the Pistons embark on a rebuilding hastened by last week’s trade of Andre Drummond. Christian Wood made his case for being a part of whatever the future holds, finishing with 26 points, 12 rebounds and two blocked shots. His put-back dunk of Morris’ missed baseline jumper with 1:25 left in overtime tied the game at 112, but a Rose turnover and his missed shot on the next two possessions opened the door for Orlando to pull out the win.
“Rhythm, timing,” Rose said by way of explaining his two-point outing. “Same shots that I was getting (earlier this season). Go to the break and just touch the ball every day and work on my game every day until we get back.”
The Pistons go into the break with two losses for every win, a 19-38 record. Casey will catch his breath over the long weekend and come back with the same mentality he’s always had. Rebuilding or not, the Pistons will play the season’s final 25 games to win.
“I’m encouraged that we fought back from a big deficit early,” he said after the 116-112 loss. “Everybody that played tonight contributed in some way. But 21 turnovers, that’s discouraging. Some of ’em were good defense and some of ’em were self-inflicted. If we ever get that fixed, that’s going to help us. We’ve got to get that fixed to (speed) the rebuild, because if you keep turning the ball over you’ll never get off the ground.”