Pistons find positives in setback
Auburn Hills — Against the Cavaliers on Tuesday, the Pistons used the fourth different starting lineup in as many games.
But following two trades and with some tinkering, coach Stan Van Gundy used what could be the starting lineup for most of the remaining 25 games.
Reggie Jackson, acquired in a deal with the Thunder, started his second straight game, along with Tayshuan Prince — in the debut of his second stint with the team — Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond.
The group got off to a good start offensively against the Cavaliers — Jackson was aggressive, with eight points, two rebounds and three assists in the first quarter.
Defensively, though, they started to struggle midway through the first quarter, giving up a 9-0 run before responding with nine straight points (baskets from Jackson, Monroe, Prince and Caldwell-Pope).
"We did well; we did a lot of pick-and-roll but we're also going to work on more things and getting our bigs the ball, work on sets, our plays and try to get some continuity," said Jackson, who finished with 22 points, eight rebounds and nine assists.
"It can be a little difficult. I'm going to work on it and get back to the drawing board and watch some film. For us new guys, we're going to continue to work on the offense and our defensive concepts."
Although the Pistons had a 14-point lead in the third quarter, they couldn't hold on as the Cavaliers rode LeBron James playing a hybrid position and big man Kevin Love tying a career high with eight 3-pointers.
"(The Cavaliers have) been rolling more than any team in the league — they've just been blowing everybody out," Van Gundy said. "There were some positive things here but there's also things we need to work on — we're not there yet, but we're working at it."
Jackson, however, showed flashes of being the dynamic point guard of the future. Besides his penetration, Jackson also found Drummond for a few alley-oops. Drummond finished with 17 points (8-for-14) and 10 rebounds.
"If they mess up on coverage, you just have to throw it somewhere in the arena — and (Drummond will) get it," Jackson said.
Before the trades, neither Prince nor Jackson was starting, and the extended minutes likely will take a toll early with the Pistons.
Prince played 30 minutes and Jackson 35 on Tuesday, and both showed fatigue in the second half.
"We dug ourselves a deeper hole, but I did get winded in the third quarter," Prince said. "I just couldn't get anything going. ... It happens. I haven't played in two weeks but I got thrown in the fire playing 30 minutes. I have to get ready for the back-to-back on Friday."
Van Gundy could alternate Prince and Caron Butler in the starting lineup to minimize the strain on Prince, especially in certain back-to-back situations. But Van Gundy indicated Prince was a valuable piece — he showed his value by defending James and finishing with seven points and four rebounds.
It's just a step for a team that can work its way into the playoffs with some solid play the final 25 games.