'It's on me': Van Gundy takes blame after another bad Pistons loss
Auburn Hills — Two steps forward, one step back.
It’s becoming a droning theme for the Pistons this season. After back-to-back encouraging showings against two of the elite teams in the NBA, the Pistons had another flat defensive performance — and paid for it with another double-digit loss.
The Bucks’ two brightest stars shined when it counted, leading Milwaukee to a 119-94 win over the Pistons on Wednesday night at The Palace.
It’s the sixth loss in the last seven games for the Pistons (15-19), who beat the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday but haven’t won back-to-back games since Dec. 2. They’ll finish December with a 2-6 record at home, the other win coming against the Bulls on Dec. 6.
“When a team is having the problems we’ve had, this many times, it’s on me. That’s all I’m thinking about right now,” coach Stan Van Gundy said in his postgame press conference, which lasted 90 seconds. “I’m not going to get in here and blister the players or anything else. Our team’s had too many of these (bad losses); it’s on me and I’m responsible. I have to figure out what needs to be done.”
Van Gundy didn’t seem to have the answers and neither did the Pistons, who couldn’t stop the Bucks duo of Jabari Parker and Giannis Antetokounmpo, who combined for 54 points. The Bucks (15-15) shot 57 percent from the field, including 50 percent on 3-pointers.
The Bucks piled it on in each quarter, scoring 31 in each of the first two periods and adding 28 and 29 points in the third and fourth.
Tobias Harris had 23 points and 12 rebounds, Andre Drummond 16 points and nine rebounds and Reggie Jackson 14 points and six assists.
“We weren’t able to get consecutive stops on them and they dictated the pace all night,” said Harris, who has scored in double figures in all three games since being moved to a reserve role. “We weren’t able to make a stand and enforce our will defensively.”
The Pistons trailed, 62-54, at halftime, after Jackson made a highlight-reel dunk, driving through the lane and finishing with his left hand, with 4.4 seconds left.
The Bucks started the third quarter with a 6-2 spurt, with a 3-pointer from Antetokounmpo (23 points, five rebounds and eight assists), a jumper by Parker and one of two free throws from John Henson. The Pistons answered with a putback by Drummond and two free throws from Marcus Morris (11 points).
Antetokounmpo followed with a dunk and Morris had a 3-pointer, cutting it to 70-63 at the 8:32 mark. That sparked a 10-2 run, with a scoreless streak of 4:40 for the Pistons, who got just two of four free throws from Drummond. The lead stretched to 80-65 before Stanley Johnson scored on a drive to end the drought.
Parker (31 points, nine rebounds and seven assists) added a 3-pointer, and a basket by Michael Beasley and a 3-pointer by Tony Snell pushed the lead to 88-69 with 2:24 left in the quarter. Ish Smith scored a jumper and Malcolm Brogdon followed with a 3-pointer.
The Pistons finished the third quarter with two free throws by Harris and a jumper by Aron Baynes, shaving the deficit to 90-75, entering the fourth.
“Tonight we just didn’t bring any energy to start the game. We tried to drag our way through, especially on the offensive end and think we could just win the game offensively,” Harris said. “Everybody has to look themselves in the mirror and come with a better mindset every game, not just the big games.”
The rout continued, with a lay-in by former Piston Greg Monroe (14 points and six assists) starting a 9-5 spurt that got the lead back to 99-80 with 8:47 left. Antetokounmpo capped it with a three-point play and the Pistons never got the lead under double digits the rest of the way.
Drummond looked to be in line for a big game, posting 10 points on 5-of-9 shooting in the first quarter, including back-to-back baskets that helped make it 8-7 in the first three-plus minutes of the first quarter.
The Pistons started 5-of-7 from the field and the Bucks were 5-of-8, but the Pistons couldn’t keep up offensively, as the defense fizzled. Parker got in the lane repeatedly and finished 13-of-18 from the field, adding 4-of-7 on 3-pointers.
His finish in the paint, and a subsequent drive by Brogdon gave the Bucks an 18-17 lead, before Drummond hit a basket off a nice feed from Caldwell-Pope. But Snell added a 3-pointer to give Milwaukee the lead.
Monroe had back-to-back baskets to make it 26-22 before Drummond followed with a hook. But Parker again got in the paint, finishing with a one-handed dunk. The Pistons stayed close, with a lay-in by Drummond and a jumper by Caldwell-Pope, but the Bucks ended the period with a floater by Monroe and a free throw by Beasley for a 31-28 lead.
Antetokounmpo started the second with a power dunk and scored seven straight Bucks points, boosting the lead to 38-32 after a three-point play with 8:36 remaining in the half. The Pistons had a spurt, with 10-3 run, with five points each by Jackson and Harris.
Harris made a free throw after a technical foul on Bucks coach Jason Kidd but the Bucks had a 3-point barrage, as Matthew Dellavedova (11 points) and Parker connected on back-to-back shots beyond the arc and the Bucks scored eight straight points — four by Antetokounmpo — to push the lead to eight at halftime.