Pistons veteran guard Chauncey Billups believes a couple of days off was the tonic the slumping team needed. (Clarence Tabb Jr / Detroit News)
Auburn Hills — It’s been scarce in the month of December, so the Pistons went back to it the day after the new year.
No, not clutch play, considering they don’t play until Sunday.
But practice, much needed practice after a couple days off — to wash the taste of disparate, bad losses from their collective mouths.
The time away was as beneficial as the two-hour practice session Maurice Cheeks put the players through, when he usually keeps them around an hour.
“Yeah, for sure. I know I went home, Josh (Smith), a lot of guys I know went home,” veteran guard Chauncey Billups said. “And everybody came back, like, ‘I needed that.’ Just to get away a bit, we had our best practice of the season.”
Having 18 games in December leaves very little time for practice, as the precious time away is used for mental and physical recovery.
From the last two weeks of November, the Pistons have played at least four games a week and had one stretch of two days between games in that time period.
“I don’t know if we needed a mental break, I don’t know about that,” Cheeks said. “Just some kind of break. We had a nice, hard practice today.”
Safe to say, the energy was high as the Pistons are about to embark on a lighter January schedule, which was surprising to Cheeks. From his comments, he expected sluggishness after the holiday.
“A lot of times when you’re off for a couple days and have a day off (after), you normally don’t have a good practice.”
Thursday’s practice was seemingly focused more on half-court play than anything else —which has been the chief reason the Pistons have dropped their last four home games, being outscored in the fourth quarter, 128-70, in losses to Portland, Charlotte, Houston, and Washington.
They’ve only cracked 20 one time and have given up an average of 32 points in the fourth. The defense has been nonexistent and the offense has slowed to a crawl
“Our ball movement has to happen through the game,” Cheeks said. “In the latter part of the game it kinda stops. I don’t think that’s abnormal. Depending on time and score of the game, the ball will slow down somewhat. We slow our ball down more than we should.”
Billups admits there’s been some obvious slippage in execution over the last several games, losing five of six after clawing back to within a game of the .500 mark. A couple losses have been given away, but two of the last three losses have been where the Pistons —specifically their defense — failed to show up.
“Going back to principles,” Billups said. “Everything can be changed through hard work. We have slippage at some point but when you start grinding and you do work, it sharpens up.”
Having slid down to the seventh spot in the East, the Pistons are certainly lucky the conference isn’t in overall better shape. Establishing some urgency is needed in the next four games, as only the surging Toronto Raptors have a better-than-even mark.
“You have to start making some way,” Billups said. “That’s why I’m so happy, that this practice time couldn’t have come at a better time, so we can start getting better practice rides and in turn going into the games. It’s time for us to get going a bit, winning-wise.”
Stuckey banged up
Rodney Stuckey missed practice with an injury to his right shoulder, shooting to the side but not going through any contact activities. He hasn’t been right since their last road win in Cleveland, with his offense a crucial aspect of fourth quarters.
“Yeah, but that’s part of the NBA,” Cheeks said. “It gives guys a chance to play, guys go out, people get hurt and you have to adjust and make plays.”