Pistons’ Ish Smith mired in shooting slump

Rod Beard
The Detroit News
Ish Smith

San Antonio — In Wednesday night’s loss to the Suns, Ish Smith was on a fast break and rose for a powerful one-handed dunk.

It was surprising to see the 6-foot Smith get up for the dunk, but it also was a departure from some of the tough shots and misses Smith has been putting up in the past week. He’s been scuffling, going a combined 4-for-22 the last two games, totaling 11 points.

He’s had his share of easy misses, which has let defenses lag off him on pick-and-roll plays and focus on Andre Drummond. And partly because of that, the Pistons offense is ranked 25th in shooting percentage.

“I couldn’t hit the beach if I were standing beside it — but at the end of the day, you have to keep going,” Smith said Wednesday. “We’re getting good shots and missing easy ones rolling around, little floaters and pull-ups. That’s how the game is.”

Smith, filling in for the injured Reggie Jackson (tendinitis in his knee and thumb), ranked among the top pick-and-roll point guards in the NBA last season with the 76ers, but it’s been a slow start this year. He’s been able to get to the rim, but finishing drives has been an issue — and his shooting (34 percent overall, 10 percent on 3-pointers) is going to have to improve.

Reserve point guard Beno Udrih is struggling, too, going a combined 1-for-13 the past two games.

“It’s tough because of the way everybody’s able to play our pick-and-roll; the screener’s guy doesn’t do anything,” Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy said. “It’s tough. They were both playing really well and the two games out here have been really difficult for them; they’ll get back on it.”

But with the slump Smith is in, taking bad shots and missing has the risk of making him second-guess his shot selection.

“I’m human, so it gets frustrating,” Smith said. “You can (get gun-shy) sometimes; that’s why I try to get to the free-throw line and throw my body in there. You have to keep going.”

After Wednesday’s 3-for-13 outing, Smith still has his teammates’ confidence.

“He’s getting open shots and we want him to keep shooting and keep that confidence,” shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope said. “It’s just one of those nights; eventually, it’s going to fall.”

Johnson reined in

Stanley Johnson played six minutes in the first half Wednesday, but didn’t see much time in the second half, as Caldwell-Pope (27 points) logged 41 minutes.

Van Gundy said it wasn’t anything Johnson did wrong, but because of the matchups.

“(The matchups for Stanley were really tough,” Van Gundy said. “Stanley played OK in the first half but when you look, he played six minutes and we were minus-10 in those six minutes. ... And (Caldwell-)Pope was playing well, we wanted to keep him in the game.”

Pistons at Spurs

Tip-off: Friday, 8:30 p.m., AT&T Center, San Antonio

TV/radio: FSD/WMGC

Outlook: After losing once at home last season, the Spurs (5-3) have dropped their last three. ... Kawhi Leonard (27.4 points, 5.6 rebounds and 3.1 assists) continues to play at an elite level.

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