Beard: Pistons need consistency in approach, performance

Rod Beard
The Detroit News
Reggie Jackson

Auburn Hills — Stacking up where the Pistons are at near the midway point of the season is like putting marbles on opposite sides of a balance.

The Pistons are 14-6 at home, but only 8-12 on the road.

They have wins over the Cleveland Cavaliers and at Atlanta, Chicago and Miami, four of the top five seeds in the Eastern Conference standings.

Then there are the inexplicable road losses to the Sacramento Kings, Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets.

The loss in the final seconds at Memphis on Thursday — the second late loss to the Grizzlies this season — was another low point, but they bounced back nicely on Saturday night.

The Pistons victory over the defending champion Golden State Warriors likely ranks at the top of their achievements this season, but as the Pistons have been on their seesaw ride for most of the season, they’re looking to pile more things up on the positive side.

“We did a good job overcoming a really difficult loss the other day but the harder job may be that we have to overcome a very good win yesterday,” Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy said Sunday. “In a lot of ways, we have to be able to bounce back from a great win. That’s the NBA challenge.”

For a team that hasn’t made the playoffs in six seasons, it’s an uphill climb to try to maintain that consistency on a night-to-night basis. The Pistons currently are in the No. 7 spot in the playoff hunt and at the 40-game mark, look like they can end that postseason drought.

At 22-18, they’re just three games behind the Raptors, who have the second-best record in the East. Today’s game marks another tough stretch, which continues with a four-game road trip and back-to-back games against the East-leading Cavaliers and Raptors to end the month.

While the victory over the Warriors can be a high-water mark this season, as Van Gundy pointed out before Saturday’s game, it still only counts for one win.

The next key will be trying to put good wins — and good effort — together to play more consistently.

“It’s very difficult; that’s been our problem all season: consistency,” point guard Reggie Jackson said. “We have to be consistent with our approach, the way we play, coming out with the same intensity and definitely our preparation.”

The Pistons buzzed around on defense and tried to make Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson work for their shots on Saturday. They held the Warriors to 36 percent shooting from the field, but that defensive intensity isn’t there every game. Sometimes the starters lag while other times, the bench can’t get good production.

Two marbles on this side.

Two on the other.

“We’ve just got to keep playing. Last night was a great win for us; we did what we needed to do,” Andre Drummond said. “It’s a big game (versus Chicago). We have to get focused for that and carry it over.”

It’s not that the Pistons put any higher level of importance on one game versus a top-tier opponent more so than one against an opponent with a losing record. As the team learns to work well with one another, it’s natural to develop a better rapport and chemistry.

“Every night is an important game for us. We’re trying to be a great team and take it step by step and game by game,” Drummond said. “Not every game is going to be perfect but we do our best to hone in.”

Van Gundy had challenged Drummond to get back to his elite rebounding status, feeling that his numbers had dropped in recent games. Drummond answered the call with 14 points, 21 rebounds and three blocks on Saturday.

Jackson, who has had some struggles of late, had 20 points and played better on the defensive side guarding Thompson and Curry.

But whether they can keep carrying that from game-to-game is the next question to answer — and that will go a long way in determining if they can be successful in the long term.

“It’s a maturity factor,” Jackson said. “We’ve shown we can compete against the playoff teams but also come out with a number of wins. Taking the next step is with consistency and how we come out each and every night.”