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Van Gundy on breakdowns: 'Get back and help'

Rod Beard
The Detroit News
Stan Van Gundy

Auburn Hills — After falling into a 15-point deficit in the third quarter Sunday against the Celtics, the Pistons looked to be headed for another blowout loss.

Before they surged and got the lead down to single digits — and even took the lead in the final minutes — coach Stan Van Gundy and his assistant coaches pondered their position. They were horrible from the free-throw line, they hadn’t shot well on 3-pointers in the second half, they had 17 turnovers and the defense wasn’t fundamentally solid.

“How were we in the game?” Van Gundy said after Monday’s practice. “It was because we played hard and our guys aren’t giving up on games, so that’s a good thing. To win, if you’re going to put effort in the game and want to be rewarded, you have to do these things right and we just made way too many mistakes to beat a team of Boston’s caliber.”

The Pistons (28-31) were scrappy and Van Gundy lauded their energy and effort, but they had plenty of defensive breakdowns that let the Celtics back into the game. That included fouling rookie Jaylen Brown, who made a go-ahead 3-pointer, and letting Marcus Smart get inside for offensive rebounds.

Nothing seemed to be working right. But when Van Gundy looked up at the scoreboard, the Pistons were still in it. That’s something positive to take from the game, even in a loss. As the season winds down in the final 23 games, there isn’t much margin for error to give away games because of lack of focus.

The particular game plan for the Celtics didn’t change much from the Pistons’ typical scheme, but there were big breakdowns that let Isaiah Thomas and others get inside for easy baskets.

“There were three times Isaiah Thomas had the ball on big guys: Aron (Baynes) once, Andre (Drummond) once and Tobias (Harris) once and drove the ball and we didn’t even come to help,” Van Gundy said. “From the time you’re in third grade, if you do a shell drill and somebody drives, you come across (to help). We’re not doing it, and particularly if your focus on what you’re doing is Thomas. If it’s other guys, maybe you understand it a little bit.”

“Not getting back on defense as a guy releases the ball. That’s inexcusable. Not keeping a guy off the glass on a free throw. We had too many of those that were just basic things: get back and help.”

Pistons vs. Trail Blazers 

Tip-off: 7:30 Tuesday, The Palace of Auburn Hills

TV/radio: FSD/105.1 FM

Outlook: The Blazers (24-34) finish a four-game road trip and have lost six of their last eight games overall. The Pistons (28-31) start a tough home-road back-to-back, traveling to face the Pelicans on Wednesday night.