Los Angeles — If Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy had a memory-erasing pen like the one in the movie "Men in Black," he might use it today.
It might be the quickest way to get over the disappointing six-game West Coast road trip in which the Pistons won the first two, over the Phoenix Suns and Portland Trail Blazers, but dropped the last four.
Following a 5-1 start, it's a sobering trip home for the Pistons, who dropped to 5-5 and looked sluggish in Sunday's 97-85 loss to the Lakers at the Staples Center.
"It was awful," Van Gundy said, summarizing the six-game stint. "You lose four in a row, there's no other way to put it."
After the excitement of the comeback win over the Suns, featuring a matchup between Pistons forward Marcus Morris and his twin brother Markieff, the anticipation peaked with Reggie Jackson's 40-point performance against the Blazers, when he tied a franchise record with 26 points fourth-quarter points.
But that was the pinnacle of the trip, as they squandered leads against the Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Clippers and couldn't find a way to stop the Sacramento Kings and Los Angeles Lakers, who each had one win before topping the Pistons.
While the early season troubles were mostly due to an anemic offense, the shooting perked up on the road trip, with three games shooting above 47 percent. But the new issue is a lack of passing and ball movement, exemplified with poor shooting efforts in the two worst losses on the trip — to the Kings (38 percent) and Lakers (37 percent).
While Jackson was the catalyst for the two wins, he waned in the final four games, finishing with a season-low nine points in 24 minutes against the Lakers.
"I played too poorly probably for us to get over the hump," said Jackson, who averaged 21.6 points in the six games. "It's hard to battle back when your starting point guard plays that badly."
Although Jackson said his drop in production wasn't because of mental or physical fatigue, he conceded that he made some poor decisions with the ball, including back-to-back turnovers at a crucial point in the fourth quarter, when the Pistons were making a comeback.
Van Gundy will need to extend the bench to get the starters more rest. At times, Marcus Morris and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope looked winded and the legs didn't seem to be there for Morris in the two Los Angeles games.
He takes mostly post-ups and jump shots, so fatigued legs are an integral part of his game. He's among the league leaders in minutes played and Van Gundy admitted he's like to get him down to about 33 or 34 per game.
Stanley Johnson is starting to figure things out — slowly. Although his shot selection isn't always ideal, when he gets into a good groove of driving the ball — under control — he can be a weapon. His versatility makes him tough for shooting guards to defend and he's a handful for small forwards, too.
Spencer Dinwiddie might have earned more playing time with his 17-point performance against the Lakers. If he can get to the basket and continue to move the ball like he did Sunday, he could be a welcome scoring addition to the second unit.
Don't read too much into the 5-5 start. The five wins all have been over good teams. There are a few in there that one could argue they could have lost, easily (e.g. Blazers, Bulls and Suns). Coughing up leads on the road trip was alarming, but the offense will click and more of those shots will fall.
Pistons vs. Cavaliers
Tipoff: 7:30 Tuesday, The Palace, Auburn Hills
Outlook: The Pistons will try to end their four-game losing streak and stop the division-leading Cavs. LeBron James is averaging 27 points, 6.8 rebounds and 6.4 assists.