March 6, 2013 at 12:35 pm

Terry Foster

After blowout loss, Pistons must regroup against playoff hopefuls

Coach Lawrence Frank and the Pistons face a Knicks team tonight that has handled them easily in three meetings this season. (Clarence Tabb Jr./Detroit News)

Auburn Hills -- The Pistons were back at it Tuesday, trying to erase the stench of a 39-point loss to the Spurs.

Assistant Brian Hill — filling in for coach Lawrence Frank, who was dealing with a family matter — said the team worked hard, which is a sign the Pistons don't have the look of a defeated group.

Their look in live games, however, says otherwise.

The Pistons appear fried, and the worst is yet to come.

The next round of games, beginning tonight against the Knicks, is a potential back-breaker for a team with little to play for except pride.

Six of the next eight games are against playoff teams who are a combined 223-135. The Pistons are 8-25 against teams currently in the playoffs, and 2-12 against them on the road.

After the Knicks, the Pistons host the Mavericks, then hit the road for games against the Clippers, Jazz, Warriors and Trail Blazers.

Then they face the Nets at home before facing the Heat, which has won 15 consecutive, in Miami.

"This is the NBA, and you have to be ready for the next one so it does not happen again," Pistons guard Jose Calderon said. "You keep working and doing your thing. If you keep everybody on the same page you can compete against anybody."

Playing for pride

The Pistons certainly have not competed against the Knicks, who have won all three meetings by an average of 107.3-90.7.

"The only thing we can do is come in and coach our guys and prepare them the best way we can," Hill said. "And then comes the pride factor every time we come out and play. We have to take pride in how we play and individually and collectively as a team and try to play that way all the way to Game 82."

Let's not kid ourselves.

The Pistons lack enough talent to beat these teams. Deep down, they know it, but won't admit it.

Calderon's future

But there is something else to play for.

This organization must show Calderon, a free agent, there is a reason to stay in Detroit after this season.

Frank likes Calderon because he brings professionalism and leadership.

The question is, does Calderon want to lead or does he want to go to a team that is championship ready?

The Pistons are not championship ready.

But they can respond to the Spurs debacle with a solid rebound.

"This group has been a pretty resilient group," Hill said. "We usually follow up a subpar performance with a better performance, whether it results in a win or not. We have had competitive juices and if we focus on the game plan, we usually respond pretty well."

terry.foster@detroitnews.com

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