Auburn Hills — It’s the plays at the end of games that get the big headlines.
But the Pistons didn’t suffer their third consecutive defeat just because they allowed the Celtics two offensive rebounds on their final possession Saturday night, when Al Horford tipped in the final one for a 94-92 Boston victory at The Palace.
“It comes down to those plays,” soft-spoken Tobias Harris said following the defeat. “But those aren’t the plays why really lost the game. One thing we can take from this game — you get in tight games like this, and all the little things add up.”
Among those “little” plays Saturday — the Pistons twice through the first 36 minutes allowed the Celtics points at the buzzer at the end of quarters.
In the first quarter, Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas made a 3-pointer as time expired to make it 30-23 Celtics.
And in the third quarter, Tyler Zeller raced down the court in three seconds to put in an uncontested layup at the buzzer to cut the Pistons’ lead to 73-71.
“We gave them five points in, I want to say, like two seconds at the end of quarters,” said Harris, and that doesn’t include the winning layup by Horford. “Little plays like those that we have to take away and be locked in and focused in on. In tight games like that, all the little plays add up. Once we really get down to that standpoint, we need every little thing, every loose ball, every 50-50 ball, every rebound, stuff like that.
“That’s what’s going to help us be a great team.”
The Pistons have lost three straight games entering tonight’s game at home against the Houston Rockets, and six of eight.
Coach Stan Van Gundy was more pleased with the effort Saturday than he was in the blowout loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers the night before.
But Van Gundy, like Harris and the rest of the Pistons who spoke quietly in the locker room Saturday night as “Let’s Stay Together” played in the background, courtesy of Andre Drummond’s iPhone, was beside himself with the breakdowns at the end of quarters.
“Our guys never look at that stuff when it comes down to deciding the game,” Van Gundy said.
“You can’t just quit on a quarter. In a game you lose by two, that’s frustrating.”
On a whole, the Pistons defense hasn’t been awful. At least, not statistically.
But 3-point defense is a concern. Opponents are making 35.2 percent of their 3-point attempts against Detroit, which ranks 22nd in the league. On Saturday night, the Celtics made 12 of their 31 attempts.
Ex-Piston Jonas Jerebko had come into the game 5-for-19 on 3-pointers, and made all three of his attempts Saturday.
“You look at every game, there’s somebody — you go back about four games, you get somebody who’s shooting under 30 percent that shoots the (heck) out of it,” Van Gundy said.
“Carmelo (Anthony) hadn’t been making 3’s, he goes 4-for-6. Jerebko comes in 5-for-(19), and goes 3-for-3.
“That’s just sort of where we are right now.”
Sophomore forward Stanley Johnson didn’t play Saturday, as Van Gundy searches for ways to increase the offensive output. Reggie Bullock got a season-high 20 minutes instead, and provided a spark at times.
... For the third consecutive week, the Pistons are playing a grueling, Monday-Wednesday-Friday-Saturday schedule. Van Gundy said the lack of practice time is making it hard for him to make lineup changes.
... Marcus Morris bounced back in a big way from recent woes, scoring a season-high 24 points Saturday.
He also hit a huge 3-pointer late that, albeit briefly, put the Pistons up.