Beard: Upcoming stretch will test Pistons' character
Minneapolis — Throw a chair. Yell at someone. Bench a player. Call for a team meeting. Trade the slackers.
Better yet, trade everyone. Fire the coach. Fire the owner.
After Friday’s loss to the Indiana Pacers, in which the Pistons squandered a 22-point lead in the final 18 minutes, even the most outlandish reactions seemed not to be enough. In the same vein of “Same Old Lions,” this seemed to be “Same Old Pistons.”
After their 10-3 start, Pistons fans had reason for optimism, but it seemed to all be sapped away with the 107-100 loss at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Coach Stan Van Gundy had spoken after the strong opening that the Pistons’ mettle would be tested not in their successes, but in their challenges.
That’s where they find themselves now, after two straight losses.
“We’ve been on the other side of this several times this year, where we were the ones coming back. This is one of the first signs of adversity for us, losing two in a row, losing this one like we did,” forward Anthony Tolliver said. “It’ll be a good test of character to see how we respond next game and hopefully we can build a lead and keep it and stay focused and stay disciplined.
“That’s what happened tonight: we stopped doing the things that made us successful.”
The Pistons (10-5) stopped scoring, stopped defending and stopped sharing the ball, all ingredients to letting a team overcome a huge deficit. They managed just three points in the final 3:45, after they had moved back ahead, following a 3-pointer and a basket by Tobias Harris.
Sloppy and sleepy
After careless turnovers and defensive malaise, the Pacers finished with 12 of the last 15 points of the game. As the Pistons looked to hold on to a 10-point lead entering the fourth quarter, things just fell apart, mostly because of questionable shot selection.
The incredulous faces in the locker room after the game looked very familiar, very much like the ones last season, when things fell apart and the games slipped away when they couldn’t finish games. Or start games well. Or do much of anything well.
This year is supposed to be different — they’re supposed to have matured and gotten rid of those bugaboos. They’re supposed to be accountable to each other and to Van Gundy. They’re supposed to not have this type of flub happen.
“That’s a game we should have won; it was our game. It’s disappointing. I don’t think we need a team meeting; we just have to come out and handle our business and get the win,” Harris said. “It’s disappointing to be up in a game that many points and let it slip. That was what we did last year a lot of times.
“We’re supposed to be a lot better as a team. It’s a game we’ll learn from as a team and get our spirits back up and keep it moving.”
How they move forward will tell how far this team has come. They finish their three-game road trip Sunday at Minnesota, before a treacherous stretch that continues Monday at home against the Cleveland Cavaliers, continues to Oklahoma City on Friday and at Boston on Nov. 27.
It’s a crucible of games that could erase much of the margin that was built with quality wins at the Los Angeles Clippers and Golden State Warriors a couple weeks ago. Now, it’s back to square one.
No panic in Detroit
“There’s no need to panic or call a meeting. Going into next game, (transition defense) is going to be the focus,” Tolliver said. “As leaders, that’s something we have to focus on too. I normally let coach do the game plan and focus on that stuff and I just work on individuals.
“Next game, if we don’t clean up this transition defense, we’re going to be in trouble. That’s something we have to do now and put an emphasis on that next game.”
It’s only a two-game skid, but if they fall into a hole and don’t turn things around, they’ll be in a tough spot. They have seven of the next nine games on the road — and follow that stretch at home against the Warriors and Celtics.
By then, we’ll know what this Pistons team is.
And then we can figure out if any of the overreactions make sense.
PISTONS AT TIMBERWOLVES
Tipoff: 7 Sunday, Target Center, Minnesota
Outlook: The Pistons (10-5) are looking to erase the memory of blowing a 22-point lead in the final 18 minutes against Indiana. The Wolves (10-5) have won three straight and are 8-2 since their loss to the Pistons on Oct. 25.