New York — Outside the visiting locker room Tuesday night, Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy searched for the words to accurately describe the level of disgust he felt.
Inside the locker room, point guard Reggie Jackson spoke in low tones, as he does after most Pistons losses, looking for something to say that differed from the previous two setbacks.
Their defense, one of the strengths early this season, has become a concern after Tuesday’s 108-96 loss to the Knicks. The Pistons allowed 25 points in each of the first two quarters and 29 apiece in the third and fourth.
“We bring nothing defensively — nothing,” Van Gundy said. “We gave up 108 points and 54 percent shooting — the problem is not with the offense.”
The Knicks shot 54.4 percent, the highest the Pistons have allowed this season, and the 61.1 percent New York shot in the second half thwarted any comeback hopes Detroit had.
Van Gundy was critical of most of the team throughout his postgame remarks, sparing only Marcus Morris — who played dogged defense on Carmelo Anthony, who had 24 points on 11-for-24 shooting — and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope — who chased Arron Afflalo and limited him to nine points on 4-for-9 shooting.
Jackson couldn’t stay with Jose Calderon, who finished with 15 points (5-for-6, three 3-pointers), and Knicks center Robin Lopez had 11 points, seven rebounds and six blocks and outplayed Andre Drummond, who had 13 points and nine rebounds.
“Lopez blocked six shots; you know why? Because he tried to — he played hard,” Van Gundy said. “We need to take a lesson from that. Robin Lopez was the hardest-playing guy on the floor and was a major factor.”
Jackson was self-critical, but seemed to sound the alarm that a change is needed before the season starts to get away. What started with postseason potential has devolved into another possible dud.
“If guys aren’t giving effort, they’ve got to come out of the game — it doesn’t matter who it is,” Jackson said. “We’re not doing things we have to do, and we’re not playing our role.
“We can’t continue to sink and watch ourselves sink.”
The Pistons are 10th in the crowded East, but some losses against playoff contenders could come back to haunt them.
Consistent effort from game to game is what Van Gundy wants to see. And as they showed early in the season, the defense will be the key to getting the Pistons out of their defensive malaise that has dropped them into a three-game skid.
“We’re just not protecting each other; there’s no communication on defense,” Jackson said. “We don’t know where any help is. We’re not all five in tune like we were at the start of the season.
“I can’t pinpoint (when it started) but we have to be better. If guys aren’t willing to do it, you have to come out.”
Timberwolves at Pistons
Tip-off: 6 p.m. Thursday, The Palace, Auburn Hills
Outlook: The Pistons have lost three straight. ... The Timberwolves have lost four straight, three by double digits.