Sun Burned

2nd-quarter collapse, offensive woes sink Pistons in loss at Phoenix

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

White Hot – Not the way the Pistons wanted to go to the Staples Center for a Sunday date with the Lakers: 0-2 after Friday night’s 92-89 loss to Phoenix. The Pistons led by 11 points early in the second quarter but were outscored 26-7 over the last eight minutes before halftime to trail by eight. They never really threatened the Suns in the second half until the final minute. Brandon Knight’s contested triple at the buzzer didn’t come close, though, after Kyle Singler’s three with 4.2 seconds left pulled them within two and Sebastian Telfair made the tie possible by splitting a pair of free throws. Poor shooting, especially in the paint, undermined their shot at putting pressure on a Suns team that can’t score as it did in the Steve Nash era. Phoenix dominated the backboards, especially its starting frontcourt, as Marcin Gortat finished with 16 points and 16 boards. Andre Drummond led Detroit’s rebounding with eight in 19 minutes.

BLUE COLLAR – The Pistons look to Jason Maxiell for toughness and a defensive presence and to Jonas Jerebko for his infectious hustle. They got all of that and a bonus – efficient scoring – from their job-sharing power forwards on Friday. Maxiell got out early with 13 first-quarter points on his way to a 16-point, six-rebound night. Jerebko came in and picked up the torch, scoring nine in the first half when they combined to make 10 of 13 shots. Jerebko finished with 11 points to lead Detroit’s bench brigade.

RED FLAG – The Pistons knew coming into the season that perimeter shooting wouldn’t be one of their strengths, but they have to get better efficiency from starting guards Rodney Stuckey and Brandon Knight that they’ve seen in the first two games. And, of course, they will. Stuckey and Knight, after going 6 of 25 combined against Houston, were 5 of 19 at Phoenix. Stuckey’s problems are particularly vexing for the Pistons. After going 1 of 10 against Houston, he was 0 of 7 against Phoenix and didn’t play after coming out midway through the third quarter. Knight played a solid all-around game at Phoenix and his shot awakened in the second half, finishing with 13 points, 10 assists and five rebounds.

PHOENIX – The Pistons found something more arid than the Phoenix climate: their jump shots. Rodney Stuckey missed all seven of his shots before leaving midway through the third quarter with a thunderous headache. Greg Monroe missed seven straight at one point and finished 5 of 17.

So the Pistons lug an 0-2 record with them to Los Angeles, where they’ll play the 0-3 Lakers on Sunday in the second of a six-game road trip that won’t end well if the Pistons don’t find their offense – or learn how to better deal with the frustration that missing an endless string of makeable shots engenders.

“It definitely can (be frustrating) if you let it get to you,” said Brandon Knight after the Pistons shot 41 percent and lost 92-89. “But the good teams, they don’t allow that to hinder what they do offensively or defensively. They just play.”

It was Knight who missed the game’s last shot, a potential tying 3-pointer at the buzzer. The Pistons probably had no business being in that position – they trailed by nine with two minutes left and by eight to 10 for most of the second half. A Kyle Singler triple with 4.2 seconds left pulled the Pistons within two and the tie became possible when Sebastian Telfair split a pair of free throws with 3.6 seconds left.

But the game was lost long before Knight’s contested triple drew air. It began unraveling in the second quarter, when the Pistons turned an 11-point lead with eight minutes left in the half to an eight-point deficit by the intermission, getting outscored 26-7 when their offensive woes and their defensive gaffes merged nightmarishly.

“During that stretch, we had some very, very good looks, had some free throws, yet at the end of the day, when you’re missing open shots or things aren’t going your way, you’ve got to be able to lock in and defend,” Lawrence Frank said. “Our inability to get consistent stops during those dry spells determined the game.”

The Pistons got solid games from a number of players. Frank lauded point guards Knight (13 points, 10 assists, five rebounds, two turnovers) and Will Bynum (10 points, three rebounds, one assist, one turnover), power forwards Jason Maxiell (16 points, six rebounds) and Jonas Jerebko (11 points), and veteran Tayshaun Prince (18 points). Singler played well again and Andre Drummond was significantly improved after admitting to nervousness in the opener.

“The first game was a lot of jitters,” he said after leaving a large impact on this game with eight rebounds, five points and two blocks in 19 minutes. “The spurt I played, I couldn’t really get myself going. I can’t use that as an excuse, but today I felt a lot more comfortable. We just couldn’t come out with a win.”

“His energy was very good,” Frank said of Drummond. “That was a positive.

“We had a number of guys who did some good things, but as a team – defensively, especially – it would be one thing if we were getting horrible shots. We got good looks; just didn’t make them. In that regard, you’ve got to grind that much harder, especially on the road. We can’t get outscored like that in the paint. Rebounding, we were minus (13) on the glass. These are the things we need to do in order to win the game.”

“We got the shots we wanted and the plays we wanted to get to,” Knight said, “but we’ve got to focus more on the defensive end and not have as many lapses.”