Pistons look to square things with lowly Nets

David Goricki
The Detroit News

Auburn Hills — The Pistons host the Nets on Saturday night, hoping to toss aside an ugly road loss in November.

The Pistons, in perhaps their worst game this season, shot 33.7 percent overall, 25 percent from 3-point range and 42.9 percent from the free throw line (9-for-21) in an 87-83 loss. They led by eight points in the fourth quarter.

“It’s definitely a big game,” said backup point guard Brandon Jennings, who missed the first meeting recovering from a ruptured Achilles. “We can’t look at their record and think, you know that they’re not good or anything like that. They are still an NBA team and we’ve been struggling playing against teams who are under .500.”

Pistons coach/president Stan Van Gundy has made his players aware of their 10-4 record against the nine teams in the East with winning records and their 2-5 mark against sub-.500 teams.

“It’s great that you can play against the better teams, but you have to play every night,” Van Gundy said. “A win against Brooklyn or Philadelphia is the same as a win against Cleveland or Chicago, so I think that’s something where we have to mature.”

The Pistons also have to work on their consistency late in games.

While they have won six games in comeback fashion, it’s not something Van Gundy wants to make a habit.

“Our fourth-quarter defense has been good and allowed us to come back, but I don’t want to be in those holes as much as we’ve been in,” he said. “We’ve given ourselves a lot of opportunities for comebacks, too many. It’s great that we can do it, but we don’t want to be doing it all the time.”

Slam dunks

It’s obvious 6-foot-7, 245-pound rookie forward Stanley Johnson is feeling more comfortable each game.

Johnson had a double-double (11 points, 10 rebounds) in 23 minutes in this week’s victory over the Celtics, making a 3-pointer that gave the Pistons a 96-92 lead with 58 seconds left.

Johnson, averaging 8.1 points and 4.0 rebounds in 21.8 minutes, upped those numbers to 9.1 points, 4.8 rebounds in 23.4 minutes the last 10 games. He shot 42.8 percent (12-for-28) on 3-pointers during that span.

... Jennings on pick-n-roll play off the bench: “We play a little different where I try to push the ball and get guys easy buckets because I really don’t like to run plays, and I feel the only way we’re not going to run plays is if we get stops on defense. I just try to make it easier for the guys coming off the bench.”

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Nets at Pistons

Tip-off: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, The Palace, Auburn Hills

TV/radio: FSD/WMGC

Outlook: Only the 76ers (4-34) have a worse record than the Nets (10-25). ... The Nets won the Nov. 29 matchup 87-83 behind F Thaddeus Young (19 points, 10 rebounds).