Lack of focus plagues Pistons’ recent starts

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News
Pistons' Anthony Tolliver on team's 124-81 blowout loss to Wizards: “Whoever we played last night, I’m blanking. See how quickly I forget?”

Auburn Hills — Anthony Tolliver was discussing where the Pistons have been and where they might go on their upcoming nine-game home stand, and he clearly has managed to let Monday night’s game slip his memory.

Tolliver was talking, paused and said, “Whoever we played last night, I’m blanking. See how quickly I forget?”

Maybe it would be best if the Pistons forgot about their 124-81 loss at Washington.

But Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy hasn’t. After Tuesday’s practice, he said he was awake all night thinking about how bad his team played.

“There wasn’t anything in that game,” Van Gundy said. “There was not one stretch in that game where we played like we gave a damn at all. Whatever I was looking for, it certainly wasn’t there.

“I’ve never had a team have a performance like that.”

Van Gundy, though, said he doesn’t worry about his team’s confidence.

Van Gundy rips Pistons' effort in blowout loss

“That’s up to them,” he said. “We got what we deserved. If that shakes your confidence, so be it. Find your confidence. You’re a professional athlete.”

He did note the Pistons have found some consistency, just not the kind that’s desired.

“Our starts of games were pretty consistent the last three games — we weren’t ready to play at the beginning of any of them, so I thought that was pretty consistent,” he said.

The last three games, the Pistons have allowed 37 points off turnovers in the first quarter.

“We’re coming with no focus, just throwing the ball around,” Van Gundy said. “What we’ve done at the beginning of the last three games has been very unprofessional. I know where it comes from. It’s a lack of focus and not getting yourself ready to play.

“It’s a good excuse to be able to say, ‘Oh, you’re young,’ which basically means you’re not mature enough or tough enough to play well every night. If I were guys and that was being said as my excuse, I’d be embarrassed.”

Tolliver, who is still feeling his way back into game rhythm coming off a sprained right knee, said the players have heard plenty from their coach. And with nine straight home games that begins Wednesday against the Hawks, they have to do more than talk about rebounding from big losses and show some maturity.

“It’s been said throughout the entire year, but especially the last month and a half. Words are nothing right now,” Tolliver said. “Words can’t get much done. It’s just a matter of guys buying into it and wanting it more, wanting to make the playoffs and sacrificing the things it takes to get into the playoffs.”

Tolliver, though, had no explanation why the Pistons played so poorly Monday, but could diagnose why they seem to practice well and fail to take that into games on a consistent basis.

“The mindset we have in practice, first of all, there’s nobody watching. Second of all, there’s no stats so no one’s getting the glory, so in practice it’s really easy to play like that,” Tolliver said. “That’s a maturity thing and that’s across the board. It takes change of thought processes to really understand that’s what it takes to be successful in this league; each person taking their role and absolutely executing it to the best of their abilities and sacrificing.

“We don’t have enough of that but hopefully it clicks and hopefully we figure it out these last 15 games.”

Hawks at Pistons

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

TV/radio: FSD/WMGC

Outlook: The Pistons open a nine-game home stand after their most lopsided loss of the season. The Hawks have won five of six and are led by Paul Millsap (17.5 points, 8.6 rebounds) and Al Horford (15.3, 7.1).