Potent Pistons work to tighten up defense

Geoff Robinson
The Detroit News

Auburn Hills — The Pistons offense has started to find itself, scoring more than 100 points in its last five games, and winning four out of five during an important stretch of the season.

But not all is necessarily running smoothly in the eyes of coach Stan Van Gundy, who sees room for improvement on the defensive side of the ball.

“We’ve slipped,” Van Gundy said. “We haven’t slipped real badly yet, but we’ve slipped, so we talked about trying to get back to where we were defensively.”

The Pistons have given up more than 100 points in regulation in back-to-back games against teams that are just so-so offensively in Chicago and Boston.

“We’re starting to score more, but we’ve got to be a little more heady at getting back,” Pistons guard Reggie Jackson said. “There’s room for improvement, and we’re still trying to figure it out.”

The road is rarely a good place to get healthy for a team trying to find its rhythm on defense, especially considering the Pistons are facing a back-to-back-games situation. The good news is they’re 2-0 against the Heat and Hawks this season, holding them to 81 and 94 points, respectively.

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Still no decision on Jennings’ availability

Guard Brandon Jennings is back practicing with his teammates, and he’s hitting the road with them for these next two games, but Van Gundy isn’t quite ready to say whether Jennings will be available against the Heat or Hawks.

“He moved his feet a little better today, which is a good step forward,” Van Gundy said after Monday’s practice. “It’s possible (he could dress), but I haven’t made the decision yet.”

Blake hitting his stride

One factor likely for Van Gundy as it pertains to getting Jennings in the rotation is the recent surge of play from backup point guard Steve Blake, who has become a leader for the reserves.

Blake is averaging just 4.3 points and 3.1 assists this season, but it’s his ability to stabilize the point guard position and avoid big mistakes that has made him vital to the team’s recent success.

“He’s got his legs back, and he’s familiar with his teammates,” Van Gundy said. “Missing the preseason hurt early in the year.”

Against Boston last week, Blake didn’t score a single point and recorded just two assists, yet his plus-minus was the highest on the team at plus-19.

“He’s starting to figure out the system and how it works,” Jackson said. “The second unit is scoring and giving the starters long stints of rest. It’s a big part of our success.”

How Van Gundy monitors playing time between Blake and Jennings over the next couple of weeks, and how it affects team chemistry, will be the biggest story line going forward.

Geoff Robinson is a freelance writer.

Pistons at Heat

Tip-off: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, AmericanAirlines Arena, Miami

TV/radio: FSD/WMGC

Outlook: After a three-game skid, Miami has won four of its last five. … The Pistons won the first meeting at home this season, 104-81, holding Dwyane Wade to just two points.