Van Gundy displeased by Pistons' effort in loss
Auburn Hills — The Pistons were looking for some clarity with less than a week remaining until the regular-season opener.
Will Ray McCallum Jr. or Lorenzo Brown secure the third point-guard role and lock down the final roster spot?
Who is going to emerge as shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope’s backup off the bench?
While the Pistons still have time to sort that out, the more pressing matter in Wednesday’s exhibition finale was trying to find an answer to stop Raptors guards Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan.
The Pistons couldn’t find one as the All-Star backcourt duo combined for 53 points on 18-for-35 shooting in three quarters of action, stopping Detroit’s three-game winning streak with a 103-92 victory at The Palace.
Andre Drummond had 16 points and 13 rebounds, Caldwell-Pope scored 16, Tobias Harris and Marcus Morris had 14 each, and Jon Leuer added 11 for the Pistons (3-3).
Lowry had 27 points in 29 minutes, DeRozan had 26 points in 24 minutes and Cory Joseph scored 10 off the bench for the Raptors (4-2).
“I have been happy with our team’s work ethic and how hard we have played throughout the preseason, but I wasn’t tonight,” Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy said. “I was really disappointed. I did not think that we competed hard enough tonight.
“They pounded us on the glass. I did not think we were very aggressive defensively. I do not think we did a great job contesting shots. I just do not think we battled hard.”
After DeRozan scored the final six points in the first half to give the Raptors a 61-46 lead at halftime, he continued scorch the Pistons in the third quarter.
DeRozan hit his first two jumpers in the second half make it 69-52 with 6:48 left before Lowry splashed a 3-pointer and assisted on a Jonas Valanciunas basket as the Raptors took their largest lead, 80-58, at the 3:25 mark.
The Pistons fought back and rattled off a 12-1 run to cut it to 81-70 early in the fourth. Harris started the spurt late in the third with a jumper, Stanley Johnson made a 3-pointer, Morris hit a jumper, and Leuer and Lorenzo Brown capped it with consecutive layups.
Joseph ended the run with a 3-pointer and then scored five straight points on a jumper and three-point play to help give the Raptors breathing room, 89-74, with 8:52 remaining.
The Pistons quickly cut it back to single digits on back-to-back 3-pointers by rookie Henry Ellenson and Ish Smith to make it 89-80 at the 7:43 mark.
A Caldwell-Pope 3-pointer cut it to 95-87 with 3:44 left but the Pistons were unable to muster a late comeback and get any closer.
“They ran their stuff with a lot of tempo, a lot of speed and we weren't able to match that,” Harris said. “The physicality got to us early on and that's something we have to adjust to and really adapt to when we're playing against teams that can impose their will. We have to learn and grow from it.”
The Pistons defense and Morris got off to a quick start, with Drummond and Smith each blocking Lowry on the Raptors’ first two possessions. Morris opened 3-for-3 from the field with a turnaround jumper on the baseline, 3-pointer from the wing and reverse layup as the Pistons took an 11-10 lead with 6:06 left in the first quarter.
It was a positive sign for Morris, who sat out the last three exhibitions with mild knee tendinitis.
Another bright spot was Harris attacking the rim and drawing fouls as he went 6-for-6 from the free-throw line in the first, with his last two attempts cutting the Raptors’ lead to 22-19 at the 3:20 mark.
But the spotlight shifted back to Lowry and DeRozan, who combined for 19 points to stake the Raptors to a 31-22 lead after one.
Lowry picked right up where he left off, hitting a 3-pointer on the first possession in the second and adding two free throws at the 6:23 mark to extend the cushion to 45-32.
The Pistons went on a 6-0 run to cut it to 47-40 with 4:19 left on a Drummond hook, a Leuer baseline jumper and two Harris free throws.
Lowry quickly put an end to it with a 3-pointer from the wing to re-establish a double-digit lead and DeRozan added the finishing touches. He scored the final six points of the half on a free throw, driving bank shot and 3-pointer to put the Pistons in a 61-46 hole at the half.
“You haven't seen our full team together yet but I think our process has been phenomenal going up to the first game of the season and especially when we get Reggie (Jackson) back,” said Johnson, who finished with seven points in 24 minutes after missing Monday’s exhibition with a sore foot. “But having me and Marcus back is going to be big for us and we just need to stay with what we do.
“We've been doing good things all preseason and training camp and if we do what we have to do and do what we know how to do, I'm not sure how many teams in the league are going to be able to compete with us on a night-to-night basis.”
The Pistons will soon find out when they open the regular season Oct. 26 at Toronto.