Slow start dooms Pistons in 'embarrassing' loss

Rod Beard


Auburn Hills — Three possessions in the middle of the third quarter encapsulated the Pistons’ night.

Jon Leuer went for a loose ball and had a sure breakaway dunk but couldn’t corral the ball before it went out of bounds. On the next trip down, Andre Drummond threw a pass ahead for Stanley Johnson to get an uncontested dunk.

Johnson couldn’t get a handle on it and it went as a turnover.

Near the end of the period, Johnson jumped in front of a pass for a steal but it deflected off the backboard and in the opposing basket.

It was that kind of night.

On a snowy December evening, the Pistons had a frigid uphill climb, digging a 20-point first-quarter deficit and falling to the Philadelphia 76ers, 97-79, on Sunday night at The Palace.

BOX SCORE: 76ers 97, Pistons 79

Marcus Morris had a season-high 28 points and Andre Drummond added 14 points, 14 rebounds and six steals for the Pistons (13-13), who have alternated wins and losses for the last six games.

“We just weren’t ready to play tonight; that’s on me,” coach Stan Van Gundy said. “You put a team out there with that level of readiness — that is coaching malfeasance.”

The Sixers (6-18) entered the game tied for the worst record in the league, but played one of their best games of the season, shooting 62 percent from the field in the first half and scoring a season-best 58 points.

Still, the Pistons cut the lead to single digits in the final minutes — only to see the Sixers score the final 11 points.

It was that kind of night.

“It was embarrassing,” Morris said. “We’ve played way tougher teams than that and took care of business. That was embarrassing on all of our parts.”

T.J. McConnell had 12 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists and Jahlil Okafor added 14 points and nine rebounds. Nerlens Noel made his season debut after undergoing left knee surgery in the preseason, but left the game in the second quarter because of an ankle sprain, finishing with eight points in 10 minutes.


A horrific first quarter was the undoing for the Pistons, as they shot 32 percent (6-of-19) and managed a season-low 12 points. After Drummond’s hook at the 9:30 mark made it 4-4, the Sixers mounted a 14-0 run to blow things open. Five players scored during the spurt, including a lay-in and 3-pointer by former Piston Ersan Ilyasova (15 points).

Morris had back-to-back baskets but Robert Covington (16 points) hit a 3-pointer and Okafor followed with a lay-in. The Sixers finished the period with a 9-2 spurt to take a 32-12 lead after the first quarter.

Van Gundy said the Pistons were sluggish the whole game and the slow start to the first half wasn’t easily explainable.

“We probably thought the game started at 7. I don’t know what the hell we were doing; we didn’t come out and compete,” said Reggie Jackson, who had 10 points but shot only 5-of-17 from the field. “That’s probably why around 7:00 we woke up in the third and it was a battle the whole time.

“Hats off to them; they came out and competed, ran circles around us and kicked our (butts).”

The Sixers got the lead to 58-35 at halftime and Okafor started the second half with the team’s first seven points, in the first five minutes. Drummond countered with five straight points, including a putback dunk and a putback and foul for a three-point play.

The Pistons let the Sixers shoot 53 percent in the third quarter and couldn’t get enough stops but shot 55 percent and won the period, 29-22. McConnell hit a jumper and Michigan’s Nik Stauskas (10 points) followed with a jumper for a 71-48 lead at the 4:56 mark.

The Pistons made a 12-6 run to trim the lead to 77-60 and were within 80-64 entering the fourth quarter.

In the fourth quarter, the Pistons made another run and got the deficit within single digits. The 11-0 spurt included a three-point play and a 3-pointer by Morris, a 3-pointer by Johnson and a hook by Drummond.

That cut a 19-point bulge to an eight-point deficit with 4:24 left.

But they never got closer and the Sixers scored the final 10 points of the game, including 6-of-7 on free throws, to thwart the comeback attempt.

“Shots were falling but we couldn’t stop anybody,” Morris said. “That’s all that mattered. I can score and we all can score, but if we can’t defend, it means nothing.”

The Pistons were playing without starting shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who sustained a knee contusion in Friday’s game at Minnesota. His status is day-to-day but coach Stan Van Gundy said Caldwell-Pope should be available for Wednesday’s game at Dallas. @detnewsRodBeard