Pistons rally from 18 down, lose Drummond to fouls, then lose a tough one

Tobias Harris scored 27 points to help the Pistons come back from 18 down to lead in their loss at Philadelphia
Jesse D. Garrabrant (NBAE/Getty)
by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

PHILADELPHIA – The Pistons lead the NBA in comeback wins from double-digit deficits with seven. Stan Van Gundy admires their tenacity but laments their half-to-half inconsistency.

“The game’s 48 minutes long and this habit we’re now developing where we’re going to try to play 24 of ’em, it’s not going to work,” he said after what might have been their best comeback yet – this one from 18 down in the second half – fell short despite the fact they took a three-point fourth-quarter lead.

They might have completed it but for two things: Andre Drummond fouled out with 2:35 to play with the Pistons down three points and the game-long inability to grab defensive rebounds and prevent Philadelphia from converting second chances into killer 3-pointers. It resulted in a 108-103 win that handed the Pistons back-to-back losses for just the second time this season.

“I think five threes, at least, were off second chances, ball coming out,” Van Gundy said. “We’ve become a bad rebounding team and we’re going to have to change it. We don’t rebound the ball.”

Philadelphia outrebounded the Pistons 47-36 one night after Washington held a 47-32 edge. The 76ers had a 17-7 advantage in offensive rebounds and the exact margin in second-chance points.

“That was tough for us,” said Drummond, who had 14 points, 11 boards, six assists against just one turnover and five steals in 35 minutes before fouling out. “Having their guards come in and grab offensive rebounds, we’ve got to do a better job adjusting to that. Makes it tough for me. I’m not going to grab every rebound when I have everybody on my back, so we’ve got to do a better job of blocking everybody out.”

The Pistons did as well as anyone could reasonably expect to do in containing Philadelphia’s dynamic 1-2 punch – the cherished product of “The Process,” the painful experience of deliberately losing for several seasons to amass premium lottery pick – of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. Embiid scored 25 points but shot just 7 of 21 and turned it over six times. Simmons finished with five points, 10 boards, six assists and four turnovers.

“I think we did a good job on (Simmons) and Embiid,” Van Gundy said. “Embiid got to the line some (11 of 12), but 7 for 21 and six turnovers. I thought Andre did a terrific job on him. I thought we did a good job on Simmons. The difference in the game was their offensive rebounding – our inability to rebound and then them capitalizing and getting 17 second-chance points. To me, that’s the game.”

“That was a huge momentum thing for them,” said Tobias Harris, who led the Pistons with 27 points on 9 of 15 shooting and 3 of 6 triples, of Philly’s second-chance scoring. “They were able to get two good locks.”

“Once you get down so much, then you fight back, any time you send somebody to the line or they get a rebound and make a shot after you stop them the first time, it’s kind of a heartbreaker,” said Reggie Jackson, who added 25 points and hit 9 of 13 shots.

Jackson scored 18 and Harris 17 after halftime as the Pistons outscored Philly 56-45. But they gave up 63 points in the first half – after surrendering the identical number in the second half to squander a six-point halftime lead at Washington the previous night.

“We didn’t fold because we really didn’t put too much into the first half,” Harris said. “So we had to come out and play with some more intensity and more focus. That’s what we did tonight, but we’ve got to put four quarters together.”

“Second half last night, first half tonight,” Van Gundy said. “Virtually no energy at all. No reason for it. If you’re going to have no energy on a set like this, it would be in the second half tonight. You’d run out of gas. We had more energy in the second half. So it’s not a physical thing; it’s a mindset thing and I’m really disappointed. I’m going to be honest. I like the comeback. I like the way we fought. But I don’t like that we’re not getting consistent energy and effort throughout 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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