Rocky road: Pistons suffer 2nd straight lopsided loss fueled by 8-point third quarter
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Three quick observations from Wednesday night’s 108-74 loss to the Miami Heat at American Airlines Arena
MIAMI MAULING – It wasn’t the Heat, it was the humility. Miami got off to an 8-0 start in the game’s first two minutes, but the Pistons survived that well enough, trailing by only five at halftime. The second half was a nightmare. Miami scored the first 21 points as the Pistons went scoreless for more than six minutes covering 12 possessions, missing nine shots and committing four turnovers. The first Pistons basket of the quarter didn’t come until more than nine minutes had come off the clock on their 12th shot. They wound up scoring a season-low eight points in the quarter, shooting 2 of 16 with six turnovers, and were outscored 33-8. Their 25 second-half points were also a season low, as was the 74 total points – one less than they scored in Monday’s loss at Brooklyn. To add injury to insult, Reggie Jackson limped to the locker room midway through the fourth quarter with what appeared a right ankle injury after stepping on Zaza Pachulia’s foot. Yes, that’s the ankle in which Jackson tore ligaments last season. If you’re looking for good news, the Pistons lost no ground on the other contenders who played. Brooklyn, beginning a perilous stretch of seven consecutive road games, lost at Oklahoma City; Orlando lost at Washington. Miami closed to within two games of the Pistons and evened the season series at 2-2. The Pistons still are in favorable position to win the tiebreaker by virtue of their 24-21 conference record to Miami’s 19-22.
STUCK IN THE GATE – Those slow starts are suddenly becoming a bane for the Pistons. Dwane Casey traces it back to the San Antonio game in late February, but it’s accelerated of late though disguised by the fact the Pistons overcame large deficits to beat Minnesota and Chicago last week. The Pistons trailed Minnesota by 16 in the first quarter, but rallied with a dominant second half to win by 17. They trailed Chicago by 21 at United Center last week, but scored more points (43) in the fourth quarter than the Bulls did in the second half (38) to win by eight. They had another flat start on Sunday against the Bulls, but never trailed by more than six and blew open a close game in the third quarter. But Monday at Brooklyn they never recovered from a sluggish start and saw the game unravel on them in the last six minutes of the second quarter, going from seven points down to 26 at halftime. Casey said changing the starting lineup wasn’t a realistic option at this point, but talked about becoming more aggressive defensively – blitzing pick and rolls was cited as an example – to coax some early energy.
OFFENSE SPUTTERS – After leading the NBA in offensive efficiency since Feb. 1 through games of Sunday, the Pistons have suddenly spiraled downward. They shot 28 percent at Brooklyn on Monday in scoring 75 points, both season lows, and opened with 18 first-quarter points against the Heat before recovering in a 31-point second quarter and then collapsing in their astonishingly impotent third quarter. The Pistons shot .414 percent from the 3-point arc in 15 games from Feb. 1 through Sunday’s rout of Chicago, but hit just 8 of 34 (.235) in their loss to the Nets and followed up with 8 of 37 (.216) against Miami. Not all of that was random shooting outcomes, either. The Pistons struggled to get into their offense and wound up taking a handful of forced triples to beat the shot clock. Miami has made frequent use of a zone defense lately, but the Pistons shot them out of it on their last visit here three weeks ago and did the same to Chicago’s zone last week. But Brooklyn got great mileage out of it on Monday and the Pistons were again passive in attacking the zone early against the Heat.