Houston — The Pistons return home Sunday for a do-or-die game against the Charlotte Hornets.
But nothing much has changed since their last victory six games ago. They play with fight and grit, can't make a 3-point shot to save their lives and have gigantic meltdowns that they can never overcome.
This time it was a second-half, 18-0 run by the Houston Rockets that led to a 103-93 loss Friday night at the Toyota Center. It was their fifth straight loss and their chances for making the playoffs are growing smaller in the rear view mirror.
With a crowd of 18,193 chanting "MVP," James Harden recorded a triple-double (38 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists) as the Pistons failed to keep him out of the lane. It was his 37th 30-point performance of the season.
"He makes it difficult for teams every night," Pistons forward Greg Monroe said. "He can score in about every possible way. He was just on the attack all night and we couldn't contain him."
Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy thought the Pistons got enough open shots to be ahead entering the fourth quarter. Instead they were getting buried at the beginning of the 18-0 run. The Rockets used Pistons misses to get into transition and break the game open.
The Pistons shot 36.3 percent and were 6-for-29 from behind the 3-point arc. Long rebounds led to the Rockets surge.
"We had to get out in transition," Rockets guard Corey Brewer said. "We felt like they couldn't get back and so we started to get out in transition and got easy baskets."
Said Monroe: "We stopped containing the ball. They got a lot of points right at the rim. We just have to contain the ball better."
Van Gundy wants his team to make at least 35 percent of its 3-point shots. The Pistons are 32-116 (27.5 percent) in their last five games and have hit just 19.5 percent in their last two.
"Our offense is just a major struggle right now," Van Gundy said. "I thought we had better shots tonight. We just couldn't make anything."
The playoff picture is bleak also. The Pistons fell four games behind eighth-place Indiana which holds the final playoff spot.
Van Gundy admitted there are chemistry issues because the Pistons are just getting to know one another. Lead guard Reggie Jackson (17 points and seven assists) is trying to lead but he has not played as well as Brandon Jennings (Achilles) and D.J. Augustin, whom the Pistons traded to obtain Jackson.
"The major reason, to be honest, is lack of continuity," Van Gundy said. "I take the blame for that. We had gotten to a point where I thought we had really good chemistry. You move four guys and all of a sudden your chemistry is back to Nov. 1. I think that is the major reason (the team is losing) but the lack of shooting hasn't helped."
Three-point shooting has been a main culprit. The Pistons were 6-for-29 Friday. In the last five games Jackson is 4-for-17 and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is 4-for-20.
It was also a tough night for Andre Drummond, who finished with six points, shot 4-for-16 from the field and was in early foul trouble. He did have 21 rebounds.