Auburn Hills -- Andre Drummond was fighting a cold Tuesday, so he might've had an excuse. Except he didn't really need one.
The rest of his teammates did, though. And none was readily apparent after a lifeless performance at The Palace led to their worst home loss of the season, 117-90, to the Bucks.
"We laid down today," said Drummond, the rookie center who posted another impressive — if meaningless — stat line with 18 points and 18 rebounds in less than 28 minutes on the floor. "We just let them do whatever they wanted to."
That reality left their coach shaking his head in disgust on the sideline. And it probably didn't sit well with owner Tom Gores, who also was in the building Tuesday night, making a cameo appearance at The Palace.
It was Gores, you'll remember, who said last spring that he expected this team to make the playoffs this season. He reiterated that point back in October — "We have to have high standards," Gores insisted — while admitting his job is "to be the impatient owner that wants to deliver a championship."
Gores didn't speak to the media Tuesday night. But I think it's safe to say no one was feeling too good about the job they'd done. And if they turn in many — or any? — more performances like this in the second half of the season, no one should be feeling too safe about their job, either.
This was an embarrassment, without question, as the Pistons simply got outworked and outplayed after a quick start built an early 15-point lead.
As Frank was saying the other day, things can go from "good to bad very quickly in this league." Tuesday, his team took that to an extreme. After stretching the lead to 28-13 with 1:43 left in the opening quarter, the Pistons were outscored by a whopping 92-47 margin over the next 30 minutes.
The unraveling began with the second quarter, as the Pistons' bench — with the exception of Drummond's play — came out flat and got the Bucks rolling. Detroit was outscored 33-14 in the second quarter with nearly as many turnovers (seven) as rebounds (eight).
How bad was the effort from the home team? Milwaukee had three offensive rebounds off missed free throws in the first half, with the final indignity a tip-in with 0.1 seconds left that probably didn't beat the buzzer but counted anyway.
And, really, who were the Pistons to argue with the officiating the way they played in this one?
"Look, we got what we deserved tonight," said Frank, whose team was coming off a win in Orlando to salvage something out of a three-game road trip last week. "The second quarter changed the game. … And then the third quarter it got worse."
That's because Brandon Jennings took over after halftime, scoring 20 points — more than any Pistons player had all night — in the third quarter
Brandon Knight followed up a stellar 31-point game in Orlando with another miserable outing — 10 points, three assists and four turnovers. Greg Monroe got in foul trouble early and never really asserted himself after that. And so on. Other than Drummond's double-double — it took him less than 10-1/2 minutes to rack this one up — there wasn't much for the fans to cheer.
But there was plenty to jeer, including the return of Rodney Stuckey from his one-game exile for unspecified disciplinary reasons.
Stuckey back but missing
Stuckey said Tuesday morning he and his coach had cleared the air after an optional workout Monday — "Everything's good," he said - and checked in, as promised, with 3:14 left in the first quarter and the Pistons up, 22-11.
By the time he checked out — physically, at least — the Pistons trailed by three. And Stuckey's stat line was about as blank as his expression, with one missed shot and one turnover the only tangible evidence he'd been in the game despite playing nearly a full quarter.
But he was hardly alone Tuesday, a day that began with the Pistons fielding questions about the playoffs. After all, they were only four games behind Boston in eighth place in the Eastern Conference, a game behind Philadelphia.
The Celtics just lost All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo for the season with a torn ACL, while the 76ers are 4-11 since Christmas.
Frank, for his part, wanted nothing to do with that talk.
"That's a destination question," he said. Still, Frank admitted, "Right now, every team in the league thinks they can make the postseason. Unless you're out West and you're buried."
In the East, anything's possible, I suppose. But Tuesday night, as the Pistons got buried in plain sight, they seemed destined for a far different fate.
Brandon Jennings of the Bucks scores over the Pistons' Tayshaun Prince in the second quarter Tuesday night. / Clarence Tabb Jr./Detroit News
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