Pistons score first, but it’s all downhill from there in loss to 76ers

Andre Drummond was back in the lineup after missing one game with a rib injury but the Pistons lost big to Philadelphia
Jesse D. Garrabrant (NBAE/Getty)
by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

PHILADELPHIA – Start the first quarter disastrously and you’re in for an uphill climb. Start the first two quarters disastrously and you’re in for a rout.

The Pistons scored the game’s first basket Friday, 15 seconds after tipoff, when Tobias Harris hit a 14-footer on the run. The Pistons hung tough at Miami 48 hours earlier despite the absence of four key players and a torrid 3-point shooting night for the Heat, taking the game down to the final minute.

So with Andre Drummond back in the lineup when he deemed his bruised ribs passable and Harris getting them off and running, there was no sense of what came next: 15 straight Philadelphia points as the Pistons went nine consecutive possessions without scoring. Eight of those 15 points came on layups.

“There was no defensive resistance,” Stan Van Gundy said after the 114-78 loss in which the Pistons set a season-low for scoring.

It was 32-15 after one quarter. For a team that’s come back seven times from double digits down in the fourth quarter, a 17-point deficit hardly qualifies as insurmountable. But when the 76ers ran their lead to 27 two minutes into the second quarter with another 10-0 run, well, that was another story.

“Snowball kept rolling,” Ish Smith said. “I think we had one other game like that, against Cleveland. It’s a tough pill to swallow. Get back at it tomorrow night. But you don’t forget about these. You try to soak it in and realize what you’ve got to do to get better.”

“Everything” would be the appropriate answer.

The Pistons were dominated on the glass, 55-34. They shot 38 percent and until the 76ers bench shot 7 of 21 in a low-intensity fourth quarter Philadelphia moved the ball freely and scored efficiently, shooting over 50 percent for the first three quarters. At one point late in the third quarter, the Pistons trailed by 40.

“That was total domination from start to finish,” Van Gundy said. “We didn’t have a good two-minute stretch in the game. We got absolutely destroyed.”

That might have been an exaggeration, but not by much. Early in the third quarter, a 9-0 Pistons run put a small dent in Philadelphia’s 34-point lead and prompted Bret Brown to call two timeouts 39 seconds apart. Five minutes later, the lead was 34 again. Van Gundy pulled all of his starters after the third quarter. None played more than Drummond’s 29 minutes.

Drummond has been a remarkably durable player since missing 20 games midway through his rookie season with a stress reaction in his lower back, never missing more than one game in any of the past four seasons. He wore a light padding under his uniform top and winced visibly a few times after contact, but didn’t indicate his condition worsened by playing and said he expected to be in the lineup Saturday when the Pistons host Houston.

“I played as hard as I could,” said Drummond, who finished with 10 points, eight rebounds and five assists. “Just wasn’t our night as a unit.” He said the 76ers emphasized screens to free Joel Embiid and it “was kind of tough for me to get through without being hit in that spot over and over again, but I fought through and gave it the best I could.”

The Pistons clearly missed Stanley Johnson, who’s guarded Ben Simmons (19 points, nine assists in 23 minutes) effectively. He missed his third straight game with a strained hip flexor. And Reggie Jackson, out for several more weeks with a grade 3 ankle sprain, surely would have helped an offense that struggled to score in the paint, where the Pistons shot 15 of 36.

“Philly’s good, but I’ve always aid it’s all about us,” Smith said. “We can beat the best team and then we can lose to teams under .500. We don’t have a wide margin for error, so we have to come and play every night with great energy defensively, set the tone, and then the offense will fall into place. Tonight it was all about us and all about them playing well. It was two polar opposites.”

FAST BREAKDOWN

Three quick observations from Friday night’s 114-78 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers at Wells Fargo Center

1-ONE OF THOSE NIGHTS – Tobias Harris scored on the game’s first possession and … well, that was about it for good news. Philadelphia went on a 15-0 run as the Pistons went nine straight possessions without a basket and the only thing worse than their offense during that stretch was their defense. They trailed by 17 after one quarter and whatever chance they had to claw their way back realistically went up in smoke when the 76ers opened the second quarter with a 10-0 run to lead by 27. Somewhere in there, Stan Van Gundy was hit with a technical foul for the second straight game. It was 30 at halftime – the 32 points were a season-worst for the Pistons in any half – and didn’t get any more compelling in the second half. For the second straight game, a Pistons opponent sizzled from the 3-point arc. The Pistons managed to stay in the game until the final minute against Miami when the Heat went 17 of 34 from the arc, but they couldn’t hold up against the 76ers and their 14 of 30 performance from three was just a small part of the story.

2-INJURY REPORT – Andre Drummond’s absence was limited to one game. After sitting out at Miami two nights earlier with a right rib contusion suffered in Tuesday’s practice, Drummond was back in the starting lineup and played major minutes – 29 through three quarters, taking the fourth quarter off as did all Pistons starters– with no apparent difficulty. There were a few occasions when Drummond winced and bent at the waist, but his movement didn’t seem impaired. Stanley Johnson, meanwhile, missed his third straight game with a strained hip flexor. Johnson didn’t practice on Thursday in Miami, but went through an individual workout and tested the injury Friday before the game. But he did not dress. Johnson likely would have been used, as he had in two previous games against Philadelphia, to guard Ben Simmons. Simmons got Philadelphia off and running with 11 early points and he finished with 19 points and nine assists in just 23 minutes. The Pistons remain without Reggie Jackson and Jon Leuer, each out with ankle sprains.

3-NO. 2 – It’s a reminder for those who choose his profession of its transitory nature that Stan Van Gundy became No. 2 in Pistons history in regular-season games coached with Wednesday’s loss at Miami. It was No. 282 for Van Gundy, pushing him past Ray Scott into second place. It’ll be a long slog to get to No. 1, which is held by Chuck Daly with 738 games. “I was not aware of that,” Van Gundy said before the game. He’s not easily impressed by milestones. He also likely harbors no illusions that he’ll overhaul Daly. It would require Van Gundy to coach through the 2022-23 season to move into a tie with Daly. Van Gundy has coached 862 regular-season games with stops in Miami and Orlando before Detroit.

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