As shooting betrays them, Pistons their own worst critics after loss to Bulls
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CHICAGO – Even as the Pistons were rocked by a wave of injuries to start the season and by the ripple effects it spawned, their 3-point shooting kept them in games and won them a few.
When it went badly amiss on Wednesday – after four straight days without a game, their longest idle stretch outside of the All-Star break all season – everything else unraveled, too.
They made 6 of their first 12 triples to recover from a staggering start that saw Chicago lead 19-6, trailing by just four points at halftime. But when they made just 1 of 19 3-pointers after that and 8 of 33 for the game, there was little else the Pistons had in their hand.
“I thought when we missed shots, it took our defensive energy – what little we had,” Dwane Casey said after the 109-89 loss, their fifth straight. “They did a good job of running us off the 3-point line. We have a 3-point shooting reputation. Guess what? The next time you go and play they’re going to run you off the line, so now I can’t get hurried up. I’ve got to have a plan to drive to the basket, make the next play, the next pass. That’s what we did not do tonight.”
With another starter – this time Tony Snell – missing the game with a hip injury, Casey had to field yet another starting lineup, this time moving Langston Galloway into the first unit and further depleting a second unit that they expected to be their strength. Galloway, coming off a career-best 32 points in which he hit 7 of 11 from the 3-point line, made his first three triples but then missed his last seven. Luke Kennard finished 2 of 7.
Kennard conceded Casey’s point that 3-point shooting affected other parts of his game, but Galloway flatly rejected it.
“No, that didn’t affect our game tonight,” he said. “Defensively, we just … it was a lack of effort tonight. It was embarrassing. It really was embarrassing. We’ve got to step it up. We’ve got to take it to a whole ’nuther level. It was a tough one. A tough one. We’ve got to be better.”
Kennard was just as harsh even as he allowed for the impact that poor shooting had, chiding himself for allowing it to have effect elsewhere.
“Hanging our heads a little bit when we missed shots,” he said. “I thought we were taking some of the right shots, shots we want to take. They’re not going to hit every single night like we have been hitting through the beginning of the season so far, but we can’t let missed shots affect us in other areas of the game. I thought it did. I thought it affected me. Kind of carried down to the defense. Just can’t let that affect us, for sure.”
With Galloway and Kennard starting, the second unit – already down its two wing scorers – suffered another blow when Markieff Morris played less than six first-half minutes before taking a knee to his right quadricep. He didn’t return. Christian Wood replaced him in the second half and finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds.
The reconfigured first unit got off to sluggish starts in both halves, but nobody was able to pull the Pistons out of their second-half funk. After making turnovers a point of emphasis in the three consecutive practice days Casey expected to help cure that ill, the Pistons – after committing only six in the first half – turned it over 11 times in the second half and enabled the Bulls, No. 1 in the NBA at both creating turnovers and scoring off of them, to finish with 24 points off of 17 turnovers.
The Pistons scored on just 1 of their first 11 second-half possessions, scored 34 points after halftime and hit 8 of 36 shots.
“It’s the same thing,” Casey said of the turnover issue. “I think we had 11 in the second half. Live-ball turnovers. They turn up the energy a little bit and we just don’t see the defense and throw it away. We’ve got to look ourselves in the mirror and see what we’re doing to turn the ball over to create turnovers or are we trying to do too much. It’s a little bit of everything.”
Less than a month since the season began with great hope, the Pistons find themselves 4-10 and fighting through frustration while dealing with hodgepodge lineups necessitated by the injury disruptions.
“We didn’t come out with energy,” Kennard said. “We had a few days off. I thought we would come out with a little more energy, but we didn’t. They just took it to us right away and we couldn’t get back in it. We just didn’t play hard.”