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Van Gundy: Pistons need shoring up on multiple fronts

Rod Beard
The Detroit News
Jon Leuer defends against Kyrie Irving on Monday night.

Auburn Hills — Coach Stan Van Gundy wasn’t overly impressed with the Pistons’ performance on Friday against the Golden State Warriors. Focusing on the bottom line, Van Gundy wasn’t happy because they didn’t win.

A loss is a loss.

With so much of the focus on the new starting lineup, featuring Jon Leuer at power forward instead of Tobias Harris, Van Gundy is looking at the bigger picture and how that group is playing overall. The issue was that they were falling behind early and having to dig out of big holes.

Adding Leuer was supposed to help improve the defense and the Pistons stayed close through three quarters and the game wasn’t decided until the last couple minutes against the Warriors. Now, it’s just seeing if they can hold up over the course of a few games.

“We got off to a decent start; it’s a work in progress. We needed to change something to get us off to better starts,” Van Gundy said. “That’s only one thing; I’m not looking at the lineup change as some miracle cure — we have to play better.”

Van Gundy emphasized that the lineup switch is just one tweak; there’s so much more that they focus on to try to get a tangible impact. There are a number of other changes that Van Gundy is looking to make in order to try to get out of the five-game slide.

“Everybody has to play better. We have not played well enough over the last 11 games. Regardless of lineup changes or anything else, we have to play a lot better,” he said. “That’s one thing we did, but I’m focused on our defense being better, the pace and energy of our offense. That’s only one piece of it.”

Getting Reggie Jackson’s production back to where it was last season is one of the biggest priorities. Though he’s posting 14.2 points and 4.9 assists, his numbers are down sharply as he recovers from knee tendinitis. More alarming, though, is the Pistons’ 3-8 record since Jackson’s return.

Beard: Van Gundy searching for answers amid skid

The struggles aren’t just about Jackson; it’s spread to the whole starting group, which has seen a drop in production as well.

“Since Reggie’s come back, that lineup just hasn’t been as good, particularly early in games. We’re finding ourselves in some holes, so you try to change something,” Van Gundy said. “Fans and media a lot of times, that’s the thing they really seize on. For us, it’s no different than an adjustment we make in our defense in trying to get our (centers) up more in the pick-and-rolls or back more in the pick-and-rolls.

“Trying to put in a new set or something. It’s just another piece of the puzzle.”

It’s tough to tell anything from just one game — and Van Gundy isn’t quick to try to draw sweeping conclusions from just the Golden State game — but the energy level seemed to be different but the results were the same.

Now, if they can carry the same energy and defense over to other games, there’s a chance it can translate into more wins.

“You can’t judge that stuff in one, two or three games; you have to look at it for a while,” he said. “You can tell if your team was better in the first quarter, which we were, but you certainly have no idea what that was caused by — the lineup, the energy you brought or who you were playing.

“It takes time to figure that out. I’m not looking at that as some miracle that could save us.”

High intensity

While there was optimism that some of the changes may have helped or the Pistons may have been turning a corner to start playing basketball, the next stretch of games won’t be against the likes of the Warriors or Cavaliers.

If the Pistons have been playing to the level of their competition, they’ll have to stay at the high they were against Golden State.

“We have to take every game the same way, no matter whether we’re playing Cleveland or Milwaukee,” center Andre Drummond said. “We have to play everybody each and every night, with the same respect.” 

Rod.Beard@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @detnewsRodBeard