Stan Van Gundy talks about the Pistons-Cavaliers series moving to The Palace.
Auburn Hills — Home crowds help. Always, they help, and sometimes they’re asked to do the truly heroic, which the Pistons are basically counting on tonight when they try to unglue the Cavaliers in Game 3 of their first-round playoff series at The Palace.
The Pistons are down 2-0 and need answers that aren’t easily extracted from coach Stan Van Gundy’s array of possible matchups, plans, tactics and, perhaps, prayers.
Maybe a petition to the heavens is, in fact, an option, even if the first Pistons home playoff game in seven years is bound to send some much-missed voltage surging through Auburn Hills and a crowd and team that of late have been such strangers to the postseason.
Detroit needed something unnatural Wednesday at Cleveland when the Cavaliers bull’s-eyed 20 3-point shots, exploited Andre Drummond’s foul-shooting anguish, and wore out Van Gundy’s magic bag of strategies in a 107-90 victory that took care of initial business for the Cavaliers as they grabbed the first two games at home.
“We’ve got to try and find some answers I haven’t been able to find,” Van Gundy said Thursday at the Pistons practice facility, where players got a break from workouts and instead focused on film and homework ahead of tonight’s bout.
“They needed to be off their feet and be energized for (tonight). I haven’t really given ’em a day off in the playoffs. I thought we had some guys who needed to be off their feet and get mentally refreshed.”
Van Gundy’s and the Pistons’ plight is deeper than an 0-2 series hole, as even they tacitly acknowledge.
They are playing an elite NBA team that has beaten them not only because a man named LeBron James is Cavaliers commander-in-chief and performing his usual wizardry.
Kyrie Irving is a handful, as is Kevin Love, while those other guys (J.R. Smith, gulp, had seven 3-pointers Wednesday) can at times be equally nasty.
A young team from Detroit, wading into the playoff depths after so long on the beach, is learning why eight-seeds aren’t always treated kindly. A question that could be answered beginning tonight is whether the Pistons can gather enough mettle and home court muscle to at least confirm they’re not going quietly.
The Pistons watched Wednesday as the Cavaliers buried them on a 20-for-38 blitz of 3-point marksmanship that tied a NBA playoff record.
But for too much of the evening, the Cavaliers also beat up the Pistons with heavy and light lineups that made Van Gundy’s and Detroit’s responses fairly fruitless, again, given that 3-pointers were falling like convention balloons and Drummond was enduring, minus painkillers, a 4-for-16 night from the line.
The Cavaliers haven’t exactly been quiet about battle plans there.
When asked Wednesday about attacking Drummond with a gang of pro wrestlers doubling as NBA front-court men — Love, Timofey Mozgov, Tristan Thompson and Channing Frye — Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue shrugged and said of his not-so-novel approach: “Lucky guess. You want to put a body on Drummond, and pull Andre away from the basket, but you don’t want to wear out Kevin.”
“Stan did a good job trying to go at Tristan early, trying to get him in foul trouble,” Lue said, making sure his coaching counterpart got a back-pat for his own chessboard ploys. “But then we also had Channing at the 5-hole, and we kind of put them in some tough spots.”
How the Pistons sidestep tough spots and reweave a series narrative will be for Van Gundy and his crew to determine.
Van Gundy was heartened at moments Wednesday. That was especially true when Reggie Jackson (14 points, six assists) showed some playoff-grade artistry.
“One of his better games,” Van Gundy said. “I thought Reggie was really, really good. Out of the blitz he got that initial pass off so that we had some 4-on-3s. We just didn’t take advantage knocking down shots.”
The Pistons would hope Tobias Harris could likewise have that brand of “better game” tonight and neutralize some of the Cavaliers’ choreography.
Van Gundy, though, again conceded that matchups at each end haven’t often enough gone the Pistons’ way, and Harris’ dealings with King James’ defense have been but one example.
“It takes a lot out of him,” Van Gundy said. “But Tobias isn’t afraid of anything. I just think the matchups are difficult.”
But that could stand also as a concise summary of the Pistons’ first playoff games since 2009.
“They’ve outplayed us, no question,” Van Gundy said. “We’ve just got to go win (tonight) at home.
“This isn’t about salvaging anything. If we win, we’re right back in the series.”