Pistons road woes extended as 0-3 trip ends with 22-point loss to Cavs

Blake Griffin had another big game but didn’t get enough help from his teammates as the Pistons lost at Cleveland.
David Liam Kyle/NBAE/Getty Images
by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

CLEVELAND – There’s an opponent that doesn’t appear on any of Stan Van Gundy’s scouting reports but is beating the Pistons pretty consistently right about now: frustration.

It was evident, even if invisible, in every nook and cranny of Quicken Loans Arena on Monday night as the Pistons – in a free fall from playoff position, having lost six of seven games coming out of the All-Star break – dropped their ninth straight road game, 112-90 to a Cleveland team that had lost four of its last five at home.

“I think the biggest thing is that we’re just right now really not giving ourselves much of a chance to play well because we’re playing so frustrated,” he said. “Frustrated with the referees, frustrated even more by the ball not going in the basket. We’re a very frustrated group right now. It’s very hard to play like that, so that would be step one.”

Blake Griffin had another very good night. Coming off of a 31-point outing at Miami – his best scoring output since joining the Pistons – Griffin came back with 25 points, eight rebounds and five assists with just one turnover against Cleveland. And he did all of that in three quarters, the margin lopsided enough by the time Griffin would have re-entered the game midway through the fourth quarter that Van Gundy let him cool his heels.

“He played really, really well again,” Van Gundy said. “I thought (Reggie) Bullock (11 points) played well. And I just didn’t think we got a whole lot out of anybody else. Not saying everybody else played bad – I’m not trying to point fingers; I’ll take the blame – but we just don’t have enough guys playing well. Like where the ball can swing and thig guy’ll knock down a shot, that guy’ll knock down a shot. Just not getting enough of that.”

Griffin and LeBron James played to a draw in a first half in which the Pistons led a good chunk of the way and were within five at halftime. But James drained three triples in three tries in the first five minutes of the second half as the deficit swelled to 17 and there was no comeback in the offing.

Both Andre Drummond and Griffin were hit with technical fouls, another sign of the frustration Van Gundy perceives – and his players acknowledge.

“I see it throughout the game. It’s not every possession. It’s not everybody,” Anthony Tolliver said. “It’s easy to hang your head in situations like this whenever you’re losing and you’re not making shots. I try to just continue to be encouraging to people to keep their heads up and keep fighting. That’s all you can do. We got a couple of techs today because guys get frustrated. We just have to continue to fight and try to get this thing figured out.”

The Pistons’ loss coupled with Miami’s win puts the Heat 4½ games ahead of the Pistons with just 18 games remaining. After two home games this week, the Pistons head out for a six-game road trip.

“We’re in a tough position right now trying to win games but it’s just not working out fo us, so the frustration of us not making shots is probably carrying over to the defense,” Bullock said. “I don’t think it’s the effort that we’re not putting into it. I feel like we are putting into it, but other teams are making shots and we’re just not making ’em.”

Van Gundy recalled his first Miami team that closed the season with a rush to go from 25-36 to the No. 4 seed by winning 17 of its last 21 games while the Pistons were there in the middle of their 0-3 road trip. And he’s still exhorting his team to keep pushing for a breakthrough.

“I’ve got total belief in this because I’ve been around the NBA for a long time,” he said across the hall from his team’s locker room at Quicken Loans Arena. “The thing can change and it can change quickly and overnight. I’ve seen it. I’ve coached it. I’ve had teams that have done it. So it’s possible to do, but the problem is it’s getting late so it’s got to come now. We need to get some wins and do it now.”


Three quick observations from Monday night’s 112-90 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena

1-ROAD BLUES – Something had to give. Turns out it was the Pistons as the resistible force met the movable object. The Cavs had lost four of their last five home games, but the Pistons came to town having lost 14 of their last 15 road games. Their loss to Cleveland, giving the Cavs the season series 3-1, completed a miserable 0-3 road trip that great damaged the Pistons’ dwindling playoff chances. The Pistons were hurt in an area of strength for them, rebounding. Cleveland didn’t do its typical damage from the 3-point line - they’d averaged nearly 15 made threes a game in the previous three meetings with the Pistons – but the Cavs still managed 54 first-half points because they held a 29-20 rebounding edge with eight offensive rebounds accounting for 14 second-chance points to just six for the Pistons. Then they heated up. After hitting just two of their first 10 3-pointers, the Cavs hit six of their next eight and they finished 12 of 33. The final rebounding numbers: Cleveland 53, Pistons 40. The Pistons led much of the first half but fell behind by five points at halftime and were blitzed early in the third quarter. Andre Drummond finished with 15 points and nine rebounds, snapping his carrer-best streak of 18 straight double-doubles. He came out of the game with five minutes left and the Pistons trailing by 22. It was the longest double-double streak for a Pistons player since Bob Lanier went 19 straight in the 1974-75 season.

2-BLAKE VS. LEBRON – The two stars were matched against each other with LeBron James starting at power forward. Blake Griffin had a big first quarter for the second straight game, scoring 12 after getting 13 at Miami on Saturday. There numbers were virtually identical at halftime: Griffin 15 points, five rebounds and four assists; James 16 points, five rebounds and three assists. James was at the heart of Cleveland’s early third-quarter explosion, though, as he scored 13 points in five minutes and went 3 of 3 from the 3-point arc in that span. Neither James nor Griffin played in the fourth quarter, which began with the Cavs leading by 20 and never dipped below 17. Griffin finished with 25 points, eight rebounds and five assists; James with 31 points, seven rebounds and seven assists.

3-NANCE’S IMPACT – When Stan Van Gundy heard that Tristan Thompson would miss the game with an ankle injury, he was hit with a mild sense of dread. Thompson does what he does – rebound and protect the rim – very well, but he’s not much of a game-plan distraction on offense. Sure enough, the guy who replaced Thompson in the lineup – recently acquired Larry Nance Jr. – had a huge game. Nance finished with 22 points and 15 rebounds in 32 minutes after recording a double-double (18 points, 10 boards) in 19 first-half minutes in which he had five dunks, most on lobs or drop passes where Andre Drummond had to leave him to cut off penetration. Even little-used big man Ante Zizic helped the Cavs with four points and three boards in five first-half minutes and six points and six rebounds for the game.

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