No easing up: Pistons, on a 4-game losing streak, ready for Golden State’s visit

Kevin Durant and a host of other talented players give the Warriors plenty of firepower even without Steph Curry available for tonight’s game against the Pistons.
Noah Graham/NBAE/Getty Images
by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

AUBURN HILLS – Stan Van Gundy can’t imagine the angst Steve Kerr must be enduring.

“They’ve only got three All-Stars,” he said. “They are really hurting. I don’t know how they can possibly go out and play with what they have left. I mean, they are so undermanned.”

Yes, Van Gundy had his sarcasm filter on full blast. He didn’t really have a sleepless night worried for how his Golden State counterpart will manage without Steph Curry, out for tonight’s game at Little Ceasars Arena and for the next few weeks, at least, after suffering a sprained ankle earlier this week.

The Pistons scored one of their signature wins of the season in late October, rallying from 13 down in the second half to knock off the defending NBA champions, but the Warriors have ironed out some early-season defensive wrinkles to once again prove themselves elite at both ends.

“They’re first in the league offensively and sixth defensively by our numbers,” Van Gundy said. “They’re really, really good defensively. You can’t be as dominant as they have been only playing on one side of the court. They’re really smart. They’ve been together. They’re very long. They’ve got size across the board so they’re able to switch a lot of things and they’re tough. I don’t know what the bigger challenge is, to be quite honest – stopping ’em or scoring on ’em.”

The Pistons come into the game with a season-long four-game losing streak after failing to win on a four-game road trip against four projected playoff teams. After wrapping up the trip with a Wednesday loss at Milwaukee, Van Gundy alluded to the possibility of altering the rotation to augment a bench that struggled on the road. But he backed off of that some on Friday after the morning walk through.

“You’re talking the difference of a couple of possessions in each of those games. We’re five possessions from having three wins in a row. We were great when we came back and beat Minnesota and Oklahoma City but we’re awful now when we came back from 13 down in the fourth quarter and got the game tied in Milwaukee and couldn’t finish it?

“It’s a long year and I’m not sure that we played a whole lot different in any of those five games. Two of them we win and three of them we lose and you find the differences for me, other than the final score – which we understand is what counts. But you’ve got to make sure you’re not making decisions based on two possessions in a game.”

If there’s some tinkering to the rotation, it could involve Boban Marjanovic and Eric Moreland becoming more equals behind Andre Drummond based on matchup and situation. Moreland had settled in as Drummond’s everyday backup since Jon Leuer’s ankle injury in late October and Van Gundy saw no need to change while the Pistons were steaming toward a 14-6 start.

“I do think I’ve probably bypassed half a dozen situations over the course of the season where (Marjanovic) could have been helpful, so we’ll try to do a better job of finding good situations for him to play, especially when we’re having offensive struggles. At the very least, it gives the other team a different look.”

However different the rotation might look, Van Gundy doesn’t expect any change in approach for a team that’s proven its mettle even as an increasingly difficult and road-heavy schedule stung the Pistons with a few more losses.

“It’s really hard in terms of their spirit and how hard they play and their resiliency, I don’t think you can tell any difference in what they’re doing now and what they did in those games that we won,” he said. “It’s a matter of a play here and there, a shot here and there.”