Van Gundy laments Pistons' soft defense
Auburn Hills — Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy wasn’t in the mood for excuses.
Already without point guard Reggie Jackson, the Pistons lost Andre Drummond early in the first quarter of the opener against the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday night.
Drummond picked up his second foul and was taken to the locker room for a concussion test. While he was out, the Pistons kept the game close before giving up a late run in the second quarter that helped extend the Raptors lead.
“So, we’re deeper into our bench and with 2:39 to go in the first half, we’re down three and Dre’s (back) in the game,” Van Gundy said Thursday. “We got through that period, so we can’t claim that as an excuse.
“We didn’t do a good enough job. We didn’t match their physicality in any way; they took it to us on the boards, in the paint and did a lot better job screening than we did.”
That was the most bothersome part of the 109-91 loss — the Pistons were outrebounded 51-40, and their defense left something to be desired.
So it was back to the drawing board Thursday, with an emphasis on cleaning up some of the defensive mistakes and quick, sloppy sets on offense ahead of tonight’s home opener against the Magic.
“We’ve just got to get a lot better,” Van Gundy said. “The main thing is, I don’t think we had a very collective will to really go out and get stops.
“The interesting thing is practice effort is never a problem with this group; they work really hard. It’s going into the games and sustaining that effort over a long period of time and doing it possession after possession after possession.”
With Drummond limited in the first half, Van Gundy leaned on reserve centers Aron Baynes and Boban Marjanovic, who didn’t play well against Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas, who had a career-high 32 points, along with 11 rebounds.
Drummond finished with 16 points and six rebounds.
“Our centers didn’t do a good job rebounding,” Van Gundy said. “Andre, Aron and Boban combined for eight defensive rebounds and Valanciunas and (Jakob) Poeltl had eight offensive rebounds.
“Even with our centers, it’s 50-50 on the glass and we’re not going to be very good.”
Defense and rebounding have been issues before the season began, but Van Gundy was unimpressed with the opening performance, especially with DeMar DeRozan getting open looks and scoring 40, most of which came off easy uncontested shots.
Although the Pistons have had trouble with the Raptors backcourt, it wasn’t just DeRozan and Kyle Lowry. Watching Valanciunas have a big game was different.
“It’s disappointing to know we didn’t go out and didn’t execute what we needed to execute, especially on the defensive end and rebounding,” said Tobias Harris, who had 22 points and five rebounds. “They outrebounded us again and got a lot of easy baskets and all the 50-50 balls.”
Reggie Bullock (back spasms), a late scratch in the opener, missed Thursday’s practice. Van Gundy said the issue doesn’t appear to be serious.
Magic at Pistons
Tip-off: 7:30 Friday, The Palace, Auburn Hills
Outlook: The Magic bolstered its frontcourt with the additions of Serge Ibaka and Bismack Biyombo during the offseason. ... Frank Vogel is in his first season after coaching the Pacers. ... The Pistons have won the last six meetings. ... Both teams lost their openers.