Dallas — Tobias Harris’ hot shooting had to cool down at some point. It wasn’t realistic to believe he’d continue hitting shots at the rate and proficiency he was going through the first few weeks of the season.
After being named the Eastern Conference player of the week last month, Harris continued to shine, but the numbers were bound to get back to normal.
In the Pistons’ first 24 games, Harris was posting 19.2 points and shooting 48 percent from the field, including a sizzling 46 percent on 3-pointers. He looked to be on the cusp of potential All-Star consideration in the East.
Then water found its level.
In the last seven games, Harris is averaging 12 points per game while hitting only 33 percent from the field and 30 percent beyond the arc. That’s not just getting back to the average — that’s even a little bit below.
Some of it is teams adjusting to his proficiency from outside and another part is just a typical regression toward the mean. After getting the starting role at power forward this season, Harris’ scoring has been one of the harbingers of success: the Pistons are 13-4 in games in which he scores more than 15 points; they’re 4-10 when he’s at 15 or fewer.
Harris managed just 10 points — his third-lowest point total of the season — in Wednesday’s 110-93 loss to the Dallas Mavericks. It’s a concern for Stan Van Gundy, along with the issues with point guard Reggie Jackson initiating the offense.
“We’re trying to figure out whether there’s anything I can do coaching-wise because they’re both struggling. A lot of it is that they just have to get out of their own heads,” Van Gundy said Thursday. “Tobias last night and Ish (Smith) before had been trying to get themselves going and they end up forcing more shots and the percentages go down.
“When (he was) playing well, Tobias hit a lot of shots and some he didn’t. When you’re playing and taking what’s there and you’re in a good frame of mind and not overthinking things, you play well.”
Teams are defending Harris differently, but with Avery Bradley (adductor strain) out and Jackson struggling, Van Gundy is looking to get Harris back on track.
“It kind of discouraged us a little bit and we weren’t able to get the ball moving like we’re used to,” said Harris, who went 4-for-16 Wednesday. “It’s something we have to all get better at, including myself, going forward. We have to be consistent with it the whole game and throughout different stretches.
“I was trying to be aggressive. I could have taken not as many looks. I had some open looks at threes that didn’t fall, that I usually make.”
While most of the starters scuffled to make shots and play defense against the Mavs, Andre Drummond (11 points and 13 rebounds) had another solid game. The Pistons cut the lead to six in the third quarter, but Van Gundy said foul trouble made him keep Drummond on the bench rather than try an unlikely comeback.
“He got his fourth foul and we took him out. The reason I didn’t go back to him in fourth quarter was that the game was just out of hand and we weren’t playing,” Van Gundy said. “Normally I do. He’s the one guy I probably should have done it with because of that group, he was playing pretty well. I didn’t like the way the game was going.”
... Bradley missed his third straight game because of the adductor strain and other groin issues. Van Gundy said Wednesday that Bradley is completely shut down and not doing any basketball activities while he tries to rest.
On Thursday, Bradley flew to Philadelphia with trainer Jon Ishop to see a specialist and get a better indication of what the issues are. Van Gundy said Bradley will be out of the lineup for a week and will be re-evaluated next week.
Knicks at Pistons
Tip-off: 7 p.m. Friday, Little Caesars Arena, Detroit
Outlook: Kristaps Porzingis, who missed two games because of knee soreness, returned Thursday night in first game of New York's back-to-back.