Auburn Hills — The Golden State Warriors specialize in the art of seduction, lulling opponents into believing they’re capable of playing the Warriors’ up-tempo style for 48 minutes.
They hunt for 3-point opportunities, passing up easy layups for contested outside shots. The Pistons’ only hope Monday was to turn the game into a borderline slugfest because outshooting the Warriors was simply out of the question.
Although the Pistons weren’t fully drawn into a game they couldn’t win, they were ineffective down the stretch in the fourth quarter at The Palace, falling, 104-96, their fifth loss in six games.
And not surprisingly, their fourth-quarter woes returned, as they scored just 13 after taking a slim lead to the fourth — going scoreless from the 4:11 mark until two Kyle Singler free throws with just 50.9 seconds left.
“I think they were up one at that time,” said Pistons interim coach John Loyer, as the Pistons trailed, 95-94, after a Greg Monroe layup with 4:11 left. “We scored two down the stretch after that. Like I told our guys, we took it to the finish line, we just didn’t cross it.”
With the Pistons trailing by three with 2:53 left, Loyer kept Brandon Jennings on the floor and removed Will Bynum, after having gone with the duo for the entire quarter.
Jennings fired up an errant 3-pointer, continuing a not-so-great shooting stretch in recent games, after which Warriors coach Mark Jackson burned his final timeout, sensing a knockout punch.
He found it in the form of shooting guard Klay Thompson (8-for-12 from the field), who came off a curl for two of his 19 points. The Warriors’ 13 3-pointers made up for them taking 17 fewer shots than the Pistons (99-82), as the Pistons only went four of 13 from 3-point territory.
“They put shooters out on the court, and were able to make shots,” said Singler, who scored 18, hitting two of his four 3-pointers. “Our strengths work in other ways, down low and sometimes it works for us.”
The Pistons were led by Greg Monroe’s 23 points and eight rebounds, but he struggled against the Warriors’ underrated interior defense, shooting just 40 percent — the same as his Pistons teammates.
“We tried to put the ball in the post, which if you look at our team, it’s a good play,” Singler said. “We just weren’t able to convert and we didn’t get many offensive rebounds.”
Josh Smith made 9 of 24 shots, while Rodney Stuckey made 2 of 10, contributing to the Pistons scoring just 34 points in the second half, their production decreasing each quarter after they put up 37 in the first 12 minutes.
“I thought our effort from the opening tip was tremendous, I thought we sustained it,” said Loyer, noting the Warriors were a fashionable preseason pick to make the NBA Finals. “I look up one second, we’re up three. Next minute you’re down nine or maybe six. They’re such a powerful team.”
The Pistons certainly competed and played with an edge, as Andre Drummond mixed it up with a man 15-years his senior, Warriors center Jermaine O’Neal, in the first quarter. O’Neal, 35, scored 16 and added 10 rebounds, making up for the ansence of Andrew Bogut (fouled out in 29 minutes) and David Lee (stomach flu).
Two local products having a homecoming with Golden State, Draymond Green and Jordan Crawford, weren’t shy about getting shots up in reserve roles, particularly Crawford, who took seven shots in his first seven minutes.
His long 3-pointer at the end of the third caught everyone in the building off-guard, cutting the Pistons’ lead to two.
With All-star point guard Steph Curry (6 for-15) not having a banner night, Crawford was more than happy to carry the shooting load. Crawford scored 15 in 18 minutes, while Green, who was playing in front of his old coach Tom Izzo seated in owner Tom Gores’ courtside spot, had six points with five rebounds.
“Our bench was the key, they really got us back in the ballgame,” Warriors coach Mark Jackson said. “We’re a defensive-minded team. I believe they shot 29 percent in the second half.”
The Warriors are certainly a better team, but perhaps this is where the early-season losses truly begins to catch up to the Pistons, as their margin for error is nil.