Scuffling offense, too many turnovers add up to a season-low 76 points in loss to Hornets

Markieff Morris
Markieff Morris was one of four Pistons in double figures with 10 points as he returned following a five-game absence due to injury and illness
Chris Schwegler (NBAE/Getty)
by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

DETROIT – If you’re wondering what a rebuilding project looks like, well, sometimes it looks like what unfolded on a random Monday night in February with another rebuilding team, the Charlotte Hornets, on the opposite bench.

“It just was an ugly game,” Dwane Casey said after the Pistons scored a season-low 76 points in an 11-point loss to the Hornets. “Both sides. All of us.”

The Pistons had a streak of 29 games where they didn’t hold the opposition to less than 100 points end last week when they kept Memphis to 98 points. They’ve now held three of their last five opponents to less than 100 – and lost all three.

That’s what you get when players like Blake Griffin, Derrick Rose and Luke Kennard are missing – players who can generate offense on their own. Casey’s offense is designed to generate 3-point shots and high-percentage shots near the rim and the Pistons created enough of those types of chances to beat a team of Charlotte’s caliber but shot miserably: 35.4 percent overall, avoiding their worst shooting night of the season only because they made three of their last four shots, and a dismal 20 percent on 35 3-point attempts.

“We’re not hitting the side of a barn with a bass fiddle,” Casey said. “But if you’re not doing it at one end, you’ve got to do it on the other end. I think they’re really competing on the defensive end.”

Thon Maker epitomized that competitiveness. Maker took a Julius Randle elbow to the face late in Saturday’s narrow loss to the Knicks and wound up losing three teeth. He underwent emergency dental surgery on Sunday morning and was back in the starting lineup against Charlotte, leading the Pistons with 12 points while grabbing a season-high 11 rebounds.

Casey said he talked to NBA executive vice president of basketball operations Kiki Vandeweghe. The NBA’s Last 2-Minute Report for the game made clear that Randle should have been called for a foul.

“They said they missed the call,” Casey said. “It doesn’t get his three teeth back, but it wasn’t from a lack of effort. Here’s a kid out there, just had a whole front (of his mouth) replaced and he’s trying. He’s competing.”

But offense remains a struggle and not only shooting. The Pistons committed 21 turnovers that Charlotte converted into 24 points, a large number under any circumstances but an egregious number in a game that saw just 163 points scored.

“It’s going to be tough to win any game against any opponent with 21 turnovers,” said Brandon Knight, who made his debut in his second go-around with the Pistons after coming over in last week’s trade that sent Andre Drummond to Cleveland and announced the launching of the franchise reset. “That’s just basketball. You’ve got to take care of it across the board, myself included. All those turnovers could’ve been shots for us.”

Knight committed four turnovers in less than seven first-half minutes and at least a few of them appeared to be simply from unfamiliarity with his new teammates. Likewise, Bruce Brown and John Henson – the other player who came over from Cleveland – crossed wires on a lob attempt that sailed out of bounds.

“I know Brandon Knight had some turnovers, John had some turnovers,” Casey said. “Some of it’s (being) not familiar with where guys are going to be.”

The Pistons wound up with four players in double figures – but barely. Other than Maker’s 12 points, three players – Brown, Christian Wood and Markieff Morris, who returned after missing the past five games due to both injury and illness – finished with 10 points.

“I think we’re going to make some mistakes, especially having new guys,” Reggie Jackson said. “Everybody’s trying to get acclimated, but we also just have some where we’re shooting ourselves in the foot. Uncharacteristic turnovers. If we can shore those things up and put ourselves in better position – we’ve all got to understand who we are as players – and then go from there, I think we’ll be better.”

The Pistons wound up getting swept in their season series with Charlotte despite the fact that at 17-36 the Hornets remain below the Pistons (19-37) in the Eastern Conference. And that, too, is part of what rebuilding entails.

“I thought we played hard,” Casey said. “Once that goes, then you really are concerned. You’re going to have nights like this where you miss open shots. But when you stop playing hard is when you have problems.”

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