Auburn Hills — Entering the first-round playoff matchup against the Cavaliers, the Pistons were tabbed as a long shot.
And those odds have gotten longer after dropping the first two games of the seven-game series in Cleveland.
In order for the Pistons to reach the Eastern Conference semifinals for the first time since 2008, they're going to have to accomplish a feat that’s never been done.
Never before in Pistons’ franchise history has any team come back and won a series after trailing 2-0.
And since the NBA expanded to a 16-team playoff format in 1984, no eight seed has ever ousted the No. 1 seed in a seven-game series after trailing 0-2.
Yet rookie Stanley Johnson didn’t make the task any easier after igniting the series with his verbal jabs at Cavaliers star LeBron James following Game 2, which prompted a meeting with coach Stan Van Gundy.
“(Van Gundy) just wanted to make sure my head was in the right place,” Johnson said following the team’s morning shoot-around on Friday. “You (media) took bits and pieces of what I said and put it on front page. You guys did a great job at that and I found out the hard way how that goes.”
But as the series shifts to The Palace and the Pistons host their first playoff game in seven years, Johnson also realized the time for talk is over.
“I just think at this point in time, it’s all about Game 3,” Johnson said. “What I said before, it really doesn’t matter. It’s in the past. We’ve got to control what we can control now.
“It’s always about winning games. As much as stuff can be talked and things can be said on the court, it’s all about who wins and who loses.”
Forward Marcus Morris echoed Johnson’s sentiment as the Pistons look to protect home and snap a 10-game playoff losing streak against the Cavs.
“I think, seriously, we need to quit all the talking and play,” Morris said. “At the end of the day, we’re still down 2-0 and no matter how hard we are or look, we’re down 2-0. We can’t do much talking until we even the series out.”
While Johnson’s comments may have played well with the Pistons’ fan base, Van Gundy said winning would make larger waves.
“We’ve got to bring it on to the floor and use our toughness in constructive ways to win games,” Van Gundy said. “I don’t think the talking really means anything or does anything at all. It doesn’t have anything with winning or losing a game.”
Avoid the lulls
Through the first two games combined, the Pistons have outscored the Cavs, 111-108, in the first half. But in the second half, the Pistons have been outscored, 105-80, and haven’t been able to recover from their lapses, highlighted by the Cavs’ late fourth-quarter spurt in Game 1 and 21-4 third-quarter run in Game 2.
“It’s a game of runs. That’s going to happen,” guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope said. “We got to maintain and continue to play hard through those stretches.”
Andre Drummond said he and his teammates have played well enough to win, and are capable of doing so as long as they don’t allow the Cavs to dictate their game.
“Last game, I think we were too focused on what they were doing instead of what we’re supposed to be doing,” Drummond said. “We allowed their good play to get ahead of us and take us out of our game.”
NBA commissioner Adam Silver told reporters Thursday the league could see a change to the “Hack-a-Shaq” rule as early as July when the owners meet.
Van Gundy said he’d reserve judgement until he sees how the new rule is written.
“My concern is if they’re going to change it, they have to truly change it and got to make sure and take some time to think of how coaches are going to get around and try to write the rule in such a way,” he said. “It all depends on how you write it.
"There can be things that really affect how people have to play situations … or there could be cosmetic things that really don’t have any effect and still be able to foul as much as they want.”
… Drummond finished 11th in voting for most improved player with 11 points (one first-place vote, one second, three third), and guard Reggie Jackson garnered three third-place votes. Results for the award were released Friday, which was won in a landslide by Trail Blazers’ C.J. McCollum.
… Cavaliers’ James on his playoff battles at The Palace early in his career: “You got to go through something to become successful. I believe you got to go through something in life, sports or whatever your profession to ultimately be able to conquer something and this is a building that I had a lot of sleepless nights after playing. When you walk in here, knowing it’s a playoff series, just all the memories come back for sure.”