The Detroit News' Rod Beard breaks down Detroit's 91-81 loss to Boston, which marks the team's sixth straight defeat. Rod Beard
Detroit — Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy saw this coming. He knew then and he knows now what his team is: good, but not great.
They have pock marks that fans and national pundits don’t see readily, so he cringed a couple weeks ago when the Pistons jumped out to a 10-3 start. When they were 14-6, following wins at Oklahoma City and at Boston, plus a home win over the Phoenix Suns, the accolades kept coming.
Whether he’ll admit it or not, he knew this stretch, with four on the road, plus two against the Warriors and Celtics, was looming. After Sunday’s 91-81 loss pushed their losing streak to six and the luster had worn off, he’s hoping things can get back to normal — back to a reasonable reality.
“When everybody was talking about how great we were at 10-3, I kept saying that things can change quickly in this league — and they have on us — but they can change quickly back the other way, too,” Van Gundy said Sunday. “Generally, what I’m trying to do is tell them the truth but also trying to provide a little bit of balance when everybody else is kissing their ass and telling them they’re the greatest thing in the world, I’m trying to bring them back.”
Maybe some of the players believed it, but the fans were leery from the beginning. It’s been a staple of sports fans in this town, to just dip a toe in the shallow water of belief, for fear of being let down.
It’s happened with the Lions and Tigers and Red Wings — and now it’s the Pistons’ turn.
Turning the corner
After a decade mired in futility, the Pistons were starting to fill more of the seats at Little Caesars Arena and the basketball malaise seemed to be over, but the current losing streak invokes the image of Lucy pulling the football back from Charlie Brown yet again.
These Pistons might be different, though. As difficult as their schedule has been in the first 26 games, it’ll lighten up a bit in the next few weeks. Five of the next eight opponents have sub-.500 records and the Pistons have just one loss to a team with a losing record.
The key will be working some wins and getting the losing taste out of their mouths.
“It’s been a tough stretch, but we’ve got to keep our heads high. We know it’s been a tough schedule for us,” said Tobias Harris, who had 19 points Sunday.
Much like the rest of the team, Stanley Johnson is in a rut — even worse than the 0-for-13 start he had in the opener. He’s struggling to find his shot with the starters and in his one game coming off the bench — Anthony Tolliver started to guard the bigger LaMarcus Aldridge — Johnson looked comfortable with the reserves. The Pistons had a logjam at forward last season, but it’s their thinnest spot this year, so there is no logical switch to make. Van Gundy is showing more faith in Luke Kennard, but maybe not enough on the defensive end to make a change in the starting lineup, especially if Kennard struggles to guard reserve small forwards.
Most fans yawned when Aron Baynes left for the Celtics in free agency, not seeing the value he had on both ends as a solid backup center. It’s starting to show more now, with Eric Moreland and Boban Marjanovic struggling to put together comparable production. Baynes had a solid game Sunday, with six points and 13 rebounds — and more importantly, putting a body on Drummond and helping to keep him out of the paint.
Fans and readers are frustrated with Reggie Jackson playing “hero ball,” which was only magnified by his final shot in the loss to the Warriors. Deal with it. That’s what Jackson is: at his best, he’s a dominating combo guard who can score with the best of them and can distribute accordingly. If you want him to pass, that’s just not his thing. Take it or leave it. In a last-second situation, there aren’t many better options.