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Pistons can't rise above gaggle of mediocrity

Rod Beard
The Detroit News

 

Auburn Hills — The good news is that the Pistons haven’t had a losing streak in almost a month. 

The bad news is that they haven’t had a winning streak in more than two weeks, either. 

In a true sign of their mediocrity belying their 14-14 record entering Saturday’s matchup with the Indiana Pacers, the Pistons have alternated wins and losses over their last eight games, including Friday night’s 20-point blowout against the Washington Wizards. 

Whether it’s mediocrity or parity, the Pistons still are in the thick of things in the Eastern Conference standings, entering in the No. 7 spot, but not far either way from being near the top of the conference or out of playoff position. 

“You’ve got from teams 3 down to 12 in the East, everybody is saying, ‘If we could just be consistent,’” Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy said. “My brother has a good line: ‘What you’re really saying is we need to be better.’

“Teams that can play really well some night and not the others is the norm in this league — and that’s .500 teams.”

 

Stanley Johnson back in Pistons rotation

 

 

In their roller-coaster ride of ups and downs with wins and losses in the past couple of weeks, the Pistons haven’t been able to stay above .500, but Van Gundy said that’s what defines a .500 team, not being able to pull out of those ruts. 

“The teams that can go out there every night and win, they’re the better teams. Everybody in this league is capable of a really good night — any team or any player,” he said. “The teams that are good and players that are good are ones that can do it on a consistent basis. So far this year, we haven’t been able to do that. We’re not different than a lot of teams.

“We’re a game out of third and a game and a half out of 11th. That’s the way the East has been. You’ve got eight or nine coaches in the East saying the same thing.” 

The teams at the top of the East are the usual suspects: the Cavaliers, Raptors and Celtics but after that, it looks to be a free-for-all for the next couple of spots. 

The Knicks, with their veteran signings in the offseason, have surprised at 14-12, as have the Bucks, who are a half game behind, at 13-12. If any of the teams in that next groupings can put together a nice run, they could help themselves as the second half of the season approaches.

“That’s hard to do because none of us have been able to separate ourselves as being better than the other teams,” Van Gundy said.

The other piece of the Pistons’ troubles has been keeping games close. Just two of the last 13 games have been decided by single digits. 

“I looked back to see and we had 20 double-digit losses last year of our 38,” Van Gundy said. “It’s the way it goes, playing well and not playing as well.”

Reinforcements

Before Saturday’s game, the Pistons recalled rookies Henry Ellenson and Michael Gbinije from the D-League affiliate, the Grand Rapids Drive. 

They had played two games there this week while the Pistons were on the road at Dallas and at Washington, but with Jon Leuer (back spasms) out, Van Gundy wanted to play it safe and have the rookies available. 

“We called them back because we wanted to make sure we were going into the game with enough guys,” he said. “We’ll play Marcus at the (power forward) and I don’t know if they’ll get in, but on a back-to-back, we wanted to be protected, particularly at the (power forward) spot. 

“(The Pacers) play small some, so we wanted to make sure we had a full complement of guys. Would I have liked to have left them there? Yeah, and the chances are, they don’t get in anyway, but we had to make that change.” 

Rod.Beard@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @detnewsRodBeard