Orlando Rains 3s

Frank calls 30-point loss at Orlando ‘embarrassing’

The story of the game in Pistons red, white and blue

– Orlando’s formula is pretty simple: Shoot lots of 3-pointers and let Dwight Howard play defense and grab rebounds. The Magic didn’t have Howard available – as a week ago at The Palace, when the Pistons won, Howard missed Monday’s game with back spasms – but that had no bearing on their 3-point shooting. The Magic – who’ve taken more than twice as many 3-pointers as the Pistons this season and rank No. 2 in the NBA in accuracy – made 10 in the first half in building a 21-point lead, stretched it to 30 quickly after halftime and won 119-89. Ex-Michigan State star Jason Richardson led Orlando’s 3-point assault, hitting 6 of 7 threes, and scored 22 points. Orlando made 15 of 28 for the night. Tayshaun Prince made his first five shots and scored 13 in the first quarter, finishing with 21 to lead the Pistons – but he was the only starter to get to double figures.

BLUE COLLAR – Glen Davis started at center in Howard’s stead and recorded a double-double by halftime. He had as many rebounds (nine) in the first quarter as the Pistons managed, and that board work helped Orlando score 10 second-chance points in the quarter. Davis finished with 16 points and 16 rebounds, adding five assists.

RED FLAG – If things indeed happen in threes, Rodney Stuckey can breathe easy now. After missing games over the past few weeks with a toe injury and then a hamstring strain, Stuckey banged knees on the last possession of the second quarter and stayed down for several minutes as the training staff looked at him. He walked off eventually and warmed up after returning from the locker room. He indicated he would try to play initially, but didn’t feel he could go after warming up. The Pistons, after playing four games in five nights, get two days off before playing at Charlotte on Thursday.

ORLANDO – Catching the Orlando Magic without Dwight Howard proved about as big a break for the Pistons as playing the Miami Heat without Dwyane Wade 24 hours earlier. The Pistons went oh-for-Florida, losing a lopsided game for the second straight night to end a stretch of four games in five days as Orlando grabbed a 119-89 win Monday with Howard missing the game due to back spasms.

After more than two months of playing winning basketball and competing hard even in their losses, getting thumped twice left Lawrence Frank … well, “I’m a freakin’ miserable person to be around any time we lose,” he said.

But the message Frank left on the whiteboard inside their locker room echoed the core of his message to the Pistons. On the left side of the board, underlined, was the Pistons’ record over the first 24 games, 4-20. On the right side, in a box, it read “.500” – in fact, the Pistons are 17-16, a game over the break-even point, since their sluggish start.

“It’s very embarrassing,” Frank said. “We’ve got to figure out which group we want to be. Do we want to be the group that was four and 20 or do we want to be the group that went near .500 basketball? It’s humiliating. It’s not acceptable.”

The Pistons hung around for the first quarter, but the tone had been firmly established: Orlando beat them to way too many 50-50 balls – Glen Davis had as many rebounds in the quarter, nine, as the Pistons managed, five on the offensive end – and launched too many uncontested 3-pointers. At halftime, Orlando had nearly as many points from the 3-point and free throw lines (40 combined, 30 and 10) as the Pistons did overall (43) – not to mention a 21-point lead.

“I think the fact Glen Davis almost single-handedly was outrebounding our team, the fact they were able to get everywhere they wanted to get with the ball at any time …” Frank said, his voice trailing off. “They were moving that ball. Think about it. This was the same defense we faced where we had 25 assists (when the Pistons beat Orlando a week ago at The Palace). Just on both ends, we played a very, very poor game.”

The schedule wasn’t in their favor, of course, and it goes beyond the four games in five nights. Of the past 30 nights, the Pistons have spent 22 of them on the road. They’re in the midst of their third extended road trip since leaving for Utah on March 10 – the three longest road trips of the year, in fact, came consecutively.

“It’s no excuse,” said Greg Monroe, who played just 22 minutes and was one of four Pistons starters that failed to reach double digits – Tayshaun Prince had 13 in the first quarter and finished with 21. “Physically, it’s the truth, but it’s still no excuse. You have to find a way to get ready for games every day.”

When Orlando’s lead ballooned to 30 points before the mid-point of the third quarter, Frank summoned Charlie Villanueva, who had yet to score a point in an injury-marred season. Villanueva led a brief Pistons spurt that saw them get within 19 late in the quarter.

“It was a terrible performance from us,” Villanueva said. “It just seemed we didn’t have a lot of energy and this is the same team we played (last week). We just seemed lethargic out there and they took advantage of that.”

There are just nine games left and with the playoffs all but having vanished as incentive, Frank will be watching as vigilantly as ever, as he put it, to judge character.

“Over the course of time, everything is revealed,” he said. “I believe in the character of the group and hopefully we’ll respond, but we truly do have a decision to make. We’re in that gray area. We’re not mathematically eliminated. The playoffs are a long shot and yet we’re playing teams that are playing very, very hard. I believe we’ll make the right decision, but we have to do it.”

“At the end of the day, we’ve got to be professionals and we’ve got to go out there and do our job, regardless of the circumstances,” Villanueva said. “Whether we’re a playoff team or not, we’ve got to do our job.”

Monroe echoed those thoughts and admitted that he hadn’t seen Frank as visibly disappointed all season.

“He wants to win,” he said. “I don’t know exactly how he feels, but I know he wants to win badly. You lose games like this, everybody’s disappointed. It’s not just him. It’s all of us as a group. We know we’re not playing at the level we’re capable of and we have to find ways to do it.”

Two days off, a most welcome respite, followed by a game against the NBA’s losingest team, Charlotte, could put everyone in a better frame of mind. But Frank won’t just erase the Miami and Orlando setbacks – in every sense of the word – from his memory bank.