Van Gundy rips Pistons' effort in blowout loss

Rod Beard
The Detroit News

Washington, D.C. — It’s difficult to judge the outcome of an NBA game from the first minute.

But on Monday the first 51 seconds foreshadowed the next 47 minutes, as the Pistons had one of their most lackluster performances of the season, against the struggling Washington Wizards.

Forward Marcin Gortat’s two easy baskets on the Wizards’ first two possessions were a harbinger of the defensive struggles the Pistons would have the rest of the way.

The offense wasn’t much better.

BOX SCORE: Wizards 124, Pistons 81

Washington surged to an early 13-4 lead in the first 4-1/2 minutes, pushed to a 19-point margin after the first period and coasted the rest of the way, taking a 124-81 laugher over the Pistons at the Verizon Center.

As he’s been most of the season after poor performances, Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy was terse and to the point.

“We got our ass kicked at both ends,” he said. “They dominated us. I’m not going to do a lot of analysis on this — there is none.

“They dominated us, both ends. They played hard; we didn’t. They played well; we didn’t.”

The Pistons (34-33) finished their four-game trip with a 2-2 split, but the losses were clunkers against other Eastern Conference playoff contenders. The Wizards had lost five straight and another loss would have dealt a blow to their postseason hopes. Instead, they closed within 2-1/2 games of the Pistons.

The loss, coupled with the Chicago Bulls’ win, dropped the Pistons to the No. 9 spot, on the outside looking in with 15 games to go.

Following Monday’s shoot-around, Van Gundy called it an important game with playoff implications — and with a national TV audience on ESPN, the Pistons didn’t open the game with an equal effort.

“Everybody right now is going to let this sink in; there is nothing you can do at this point,” said Reggie Jackson, who had eight points. “Just be as pissed as you can be and then use it as fuel.”

It’s another disappointing performance for the Pistons, who start a nine-game homestand on Wednesday against the Atlanta Hawks. Before that, though, they’ll likely look to forget one of the uglier performances of the season.

In a way, their identity has become consistently inconsistent.

“That has been most of the identity,” Jackson said. “Pretty crappy one to have, so we have to work on that.”

They allowed 30-plus points in the first quarter, for the third consecutive game and 50-plus points in the first half for the fifth straight.

“Sometimes, we come out and play; sometimes we don’t. It’s a collective group thing and it’s not just one guy — we all feed off each other,” Drummond said. “Sometimes when offensively we’re not playing well, it shows on the defensive end and we can’t be that type of team. If we are, nights like this are going to continue to happen.”

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope finished with 18 points and Andre Drummond seven points and 12 rebounds. The stats were immaterial, as the outcome was almost assured after the opening flurry.

Following the two baskets by Gortat (16 points), the Pistons tied it on a pair of free throws by Tobias Harris and a drive by Jackson. That was as close as it got the rest of the way, as the Pistons never led or tied it again.

The Wizards (31-35) ran off the next nine points, sparking a 21-2 run over the first eight minutes. John Wall (15 points, 12 assists) sparked the spurt with six points and Bradley Beal (12 points) and Markieff Morris (14 points) added five points each.

Along with the poor defense — the Wizards shot 54 percent in the first quarter — the Pistons started 2-of-14 from the field and finished at 30 percent (6-of-20) in the quarter, including 0-of-5 on 3-pointers.

Caldwell-Pope scored seven of the Pistons’ final nine points of the period, for a 34-15 deficit and the rout was on. At the end of the first quarter, the Pistons had more turnovers (seven) than field goals (six).

The Wizards led, 60-39 at halftime and the margin ballooned to 44 points in the fourth quarter, with the starters resting. Caldwell-Pope was the only Pistons starter in double figures, while the Wizards had seven players with at least 10 points.

Washington’s 43-point margin was the fourth-largest in franchise history and the largest since 2002-03.

Rod.Beard@detroitnews.com

Twitter.com/detnewsRodBeard