Next up, a trip to San Antonio and a challenge that requires 48-minute effort

Tobias Harris says the Pistons game at San Antonio on Monday night will be a good test of his team’s maturity
Ned Dishman (NBAE/Getty)
by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

PHILADELPHIA – The best place to break a losing streak is at home. If the NBA schedule precludes that possibility, there would be a short list of cities that a team like the Pistons – losers of consecutive games for just the second time this season – wouldn’t mind visiting. San Antonio would not be on that list.

San Antonio would most definitely not be on that list.

But San Antonio is where the Pistons charter flight was headed as it departed Sunday afternoon from Philadelphia, where the Pistons lost a tough one after executing a 21-point turnaround to lead after trailing by 18 early in the second half, then losing Andre Drummond to foul trouble for the home stretch in a 108-103 decision on the heels of Friday’s loss at Washington.

“We know we can play with anybody,” Tobias Harris said. “We’ve proven it already. We know when we’re playing our game and we’re at our best, it doesn’t matter who’s up against us.”

The common denominators of the losses to the Wizards and 76ers were poor rebounding and uneven play from half to half. The Pistons gave up 63 points in both the second half at Washington and the first half at Philadelphia, getting outscored by 24 by the Wizards and by 16 by the 76ers in those 24-minute segments. They won the first half at Washington by six points and the second half at Philly by 11.

“Four of the last five games, we’ve played one half,” Stan Van Gundy said. “Only the Boston game did we play in both halves. We’ve had so many comeback-type things, like we did in Oklahoma City and several times, that we don’t play two halves of games now. It’s not going to get it done. I’m not just talking about the score; I’m talking about our energy and intensity.”

The Spurs, despite not having All-Star Kawhi Leonard in their lineup yet this season, take a 15-7 record and four-game winning streak into Sunday’s game at Oklahoma City. LaMarcus Aldridge is having a bounce-back season, averaging 23 points a game, and he’ll be a matchup problem for Harris at power forward. The only other Spurs starter averaging double figures is Pau Gasol (11.3), though Rudy Gay averages 12 points off the bench.

As always, the Spurs excel at not beating themselves.

“We’ve just got to be better,” Reggie Jackson said after the 76ers loss. “I think we’re still optimistic, but we’ve got to be better. Got to go back and figure out what to fix and go out and be better and give more of an effort.”

The Pistons are amid their roughest stretch of schedule all season – 14 games against 13 different opponents with all but Phoenix odds-on picks to make the postseason field. Nine of the first 11 of those games come on the road with Golden State and Boston the first two opponents at Little Caesars Arena coming off of the current four-game road trip that wraps up Wednesday at Milwaukee.

A key indicator for the Pistons is how much ball movement and how much activity off the ball they generate on offense. That will be doubly the case against San Antonio, which ranks No. 4 in defense. There were bursts of brilliance offensively against Philadelphia, but a dismal stretch that covered the last 17 minutes of the first half when the Pistons scored only 28 points.

“We just have to watch film on this and learn from it,” Andre Drummond said. “Find the things we did wrong and try to do better and get prepared for this game.”

Watching the film will only carry them so far, though, unless the takeaway is that bouts of lethargy will get them beat against good teams more often than not.

“It’s really going out there and putting a whole game together from the jump, really dictating how we’re going to play,” Harris said. “It’ll be a good challenge for us, the maturity level of us, to really go out and put a whole game together.”