Warriors win the battle of 2 fatigued teams as Pistons lose 5th straight
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DETROIT – When the Pistons lose the way they’ve lost the last four games – all of them coming down to the final minute, none by more than five points, including Friday’s 102-98 loss to the defending champion Warriors – Stan Van Gundy always stews over the decisions that turn out wrong.
His and his team’s decisions, mostly, because those are the ones he can control. But, every now and then, the ones made by the guys in stripes, too.
The box score from the latest gut-wrenching loss shows Golden State with 15 blocked shots – six for Draymond Green, five for Kevin Durant. Fans look at that and sing the praises of Green and Durant. Van Gundy looks at it and wonders why the message didn’t sink in a little earlier.
“You get five or six blocked, that’s just great defense,” he said. “You get 16 blocked against Milwaukee (on Nov. 15), 15 blocks, that’s bad decision making. We’ve just got to make better decisions. They’re blocking threes – guys flying at you – you’ve got to be able to shot fake. Go to the basket, help’s coming, you’ve got to be able to find people. We’ve got to do a better job of making those plays.”
Four of the blocked shots came on Pistons 3-point attempts. To not see a single blocked three in a game would be typical. Four in one game, by the same team? Yikes.
The biggest one appeared to be the clincher – until an unlikely sequence of events in the final minute gave the Pistons a shot at forcing overtime or winning with a 3-pointer – when Durant blocked an Anthony Tolliver triple with 1:31 to play and turned it into a dunk at the other end. A make and the Pistons are down two; instead, they trailed by seven.
“One thing Coach did was he prepared us to have the mentality to drive and kick and we just didn’t do it consistently tonight,” Avery Bradley said. “It’s just unfortunate because we were prepared. We knew they were going to have guys in the paint and they were going to attack us on the defensive end. It was our job to make plays for one another and we did it at times, but we didn’t do it enough.”
Another play that involved Durant and Tolliver proved pivotal and that’s where a referee’s decision rankled Van Gundy. The Pistons were down by two points with six minutes to play and rallying – on a 5-0 run after a Langston Galloway triple and a Boban Marjanovic post score – when Durant badly missed a 3-point shot. But Durant fell to the floor after the shot and it was ruled Tolliver didn’t give him room to land – replays showed the ends of their shoes made contact – resulting in a three-shot foul.
“Because it was Kevin Durant who went down,” Van Gundy said. “And they said it was definitely a foul. I don’t agree, having looked at it. But it’s Kevin Durant.”
“I’m not trying to get fined,” Andre Drummond said when asked his perspective on the call. “So I can’t answer that.”
The Pistons lost to Philadelphia by five, San Antonio by three and Milwaukee by four and had chances to win each game. The Golden State game was their fifth in eight days and only their third home game in the last 12. Only one of those 12 games – a home date with Phoenix – came against a team that won’t in all likelihood be in the playoffs. Did the schedule catch up to the Pistons?
“I wouldn’t say that,” Bradley said. “I believe in not making any excuses. We still had a chance tonight. We made some mistakes that I feel like are mistakes you can control and that’s always unfortunate. But we’re right there. We just have to stay positive and use days like tomorrow to get better.”
Bradley’s triple with 22 seconds left – after his two free throws and a Drummond backcourt steal – allowed the Pistons to cut an eight-point deficit with 46 seconds left and a seven-point gap with 36 seconds to play to two. Tolliver fouled Shaun Livingston with 20 seconds to play and his two missed free throws suddenly put the Pistons in position to tie or win with a 3-pointer.
Reggie Jackson drove the left side of the lane with about 10 seconds to play and attempted a twisting layup in heavy traffic that didn’t draw iron.
“He drove it hard and a lot of people came to the ball,” Van Gundy said. “We had two guys open (on the) weak side. That’s what I saw. But it’s a lot easier to sit and watch it on tape and see it than it is when you’re the guy driving the ball to the basket.”
It was another decision in another narrow loss that will gnaw at Van Gundy and his players as they endure the most challenging stretch of schedule they’ll face all season.
“He did what he does best,” Drummond said. “He attacked the basket and the ball didn’t go in. Simple as that.”