Struggling Pistons return home to face Raptors
Blake Griffin was supposed to lead the Detroit Pistons to the playoffs. The blockbuster trade they made with the Los Angeles Clippers in late January failed to turn their season around.
The only things the Pistons lead the NBA in at the moment are exasperation and disappointment.
They have lost nine of their last 11 games and got swept on a three-game road trip during the past week. They return home to face the Eastern Conference-leading Toronto Raptors on Wednesday. Toronto stretched its winning streak to five games Tuesday by pulling away from Atlanta 106-90.
Detroit (29-35) fell apart in the second half at Cleveland on Monday in a 112-90 loss. The Cavs outscored the Pistons 58-41 after halftime and had such a big lead that their starters sat in the fourth quarter.
The Pistons shot 39.1 percent from the field and got outrebounded 53-40.
They also lost over the weekend to woeful Orlando in overtime, then came up empty in the late going to Miami. The Heat and Milwaukee now hold the last two playoff spots and have a five-game cushion on Detroit.
"I think the biggest thing is right now, we're not giving ourselves much of a chance to play well because we're playing so frustrated right now," Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy said. "Frustrated with the referees, frustrated even more by the ball not going into the basket. We're a very frustrated group right now, it's very hard to play like that."
Griffin has broken out of a shooting slump to average 28 points and 5.5 assists over the past two games but his teammates have faltered. Andre Drummond and Reggie Bullock are the only other players who have reached double figures in those games.
"Clearly, what we are getting right now is one or two guys play well on any given night," Van Gundy said. "We're just not getting enough people to play well. Particularly, offensively, shooting the ball. We can never find more than one or two guys that are making shots. I mean you look at (Monday), not to single them out, but our bench is just struggling. I mean, really struggling. The ball didn't go in at all."
The Raptors pummeled the Pistons last week in Toronto, 123-94. They shot 52.4 percent and made 17 threes while outscoring Detroit in every quarter.
Perhaps the biggest thing Toronto has to watch out for in the rematch, along with fatigue, is overconfidence.
"We're not top of the world enough to not respect every team," Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. "What happens is, you look at our record, 'Oh I'm going to get my numbers tonight. I'm going to take the night off defensively.' Once you do that, that's when karma jumps up and bites you in the behind. That's the most important thing -- approaching every game as if it's a playoff game."
Toronto has won 12 of its last 13 and hasn't lost more than two straight all season.
"You don't want to lose three in a row," Casey said. "I think our guys have developed that mentality. We're proud of the fact that we haven't had long losing streaks and that's put us in a position to have a good season."
Updated March 6, 2018