Pistons guard Will Bynum is fouled by the Suns' Ish Smith in the second quarter Saturday at The Palace of Auburn Hills. (Clarence Tabb Jr. / Detroit News)
Auburn Hills — The Pistons began another extended break on Sunday. Now Pistons coach Maurice Cheeks must figure out how to better utilize the time.
“It is difficult to practice five straight days,” he said.
The Pistons’ next game is at home Friday against the Utah Jazz. That is six days after the Pistons’ 110-108 victory over the Phoenix Suns, their second victory in two nights.
Recently, the Pistons took six days off after the New Year. Cheeks gave them a couple days away from the practice facility to rest their legs. The players welcomed the break.
But they came back and were sluggish, dropping three straight games, two by double digits to Memphis and Toronto. They also trailed the New York Knicks by double digits before rallying to lose by four.
Cheeks will try a different approach. He won’t overwork them but plans on mixing in film sessions and perhaps shorter practices during the week.
At least one player wants to be pushed. The Pistons took Sunday off but guard Will Bynum wants aggressive practices and tough workouts.
“I mean we get one day of rest and then it is back to work,” he said. “We got things we need to work on and things we need to get better at. This is good for us because we really haven’t had these days to get practice in like we need.”
Cheeks is right. It is difficult to practice five consecutive days because players like to play games. They get bored and grow tired of going at each other.
“No. It is not difficult,” Bynum said. “We have a tough stretch coming up. It is time to go back to the office and get better.”
The grind is tough when they return. The Pistons have back-to-back games Friday at The Palace and Saturday in Washington against the Wizards. That is followed by a Martin Luther King Day matinee at The Palace against the Los Angeles Clippers
The Pistons (16-22) climbed back to the seventh playoff seed after wins over Philadelphia and Phoenix. Their last game was typical Pistons. They were solid in the first half and led by as many as 18 points. Then they got beat on the boards and allowed Phoenix to tie the game before Josh Smith hit a 3-point shot and runner in the final seconds to eke out a win.
“It’s just basketball, NBA basketball,” Smith said. “It’s a game of runs. The teams are talented so the teams are going to go on runs.”
But the Pistons admit this is a time to work on things. They do not defend the pick-and-roll well and when that happens, opponents make shots. When opponents make shots, the Pistons’ fast-break opportunities dwindle.
For instance, Brandon Jennings finished with 18 assists against the Suns. But 16 of those came in the first half when things were humming. The Pistons finished with a season-high 32 assists, but had just eight in the second half.
“We got to be able to reflect on these games and apply them to the games we have coming up,” Smith said. “It’s a process. It’s not going to happen right away. We are keeping that in mind every day that we practice.”