Rough stretch leaves Pistons on the ropes

Rod Beard
The Detroit News

Chicago — So much can happen — good and bad — in the span of 12 days. In the Pistons’ case, it’s just a six-game span, through a gauntlet of three games against three teams with winning records.

And it might have helped turn their season for the worse.

After the Pistons beat the New York Knicks on March 11, they were 33-33 and sitting at .500 for the first time since mid-December. With 16 games remaining, they were on the precipice of having a breakthrough to their season, in seventh place in the East and only a game behind the sixth-place Indiana Pacers.

A couple weeks changed things drastically.

In the next game, they were blown out by 32 points at Cleveland — and seem to still be reeling. After losing five of six, the Pistons (34-38) are in 10th place, 1 1/2 games out of the last playoff spot, with very little sign of bouncing back.

“We took that one hit (at Cleveland) and haven’t recovered at all — this is six bad games in a row,” coach Stan Van Gundy said after Wednesday’s loss to the Chicago Bulls. “It’s mind-boggling to me that six games ago, we were playing OK and at .500 and now, not even competitive.

“We don’t have a lot of life in us — and we have to try to find some by Friday (against Orlando).”

The most disturbing part of the dropoff is the malaise on either end of the court — both ends in some games — and the lack of energy on most nights.

It’s led to the fair question of whether the Pistons are getting Van Gundy’s message or whether they’ve checked out on the last 10 games of the season.

“(I) say so many things — I don’t have any idea. Clearly, we’re not playing well, so it’s either the message isn’t sinking in or it’s not a good enough message or the teaching isn’t good enough,” Van Gundy said after Wednesday’s 22-point loss. “I’m not separated from this, obviously — it’s pretty clear from these six games that I’m not finding the answers and not doing a very good job.

“It starts with me; I’m the person in charge. I selected everybody in that locker room. I’m the one who wanted them in there; I decide who plays and I put lineups out there and defensive coverages and call plays.

“It’s all on me — I’m not running from that. Right now, we’ve got to try to find a way to get it back.”

Time is running out on the Pistons. Of their 10 remaining games, six are on the road, where the Pistons have a dreadful 11-24 record this season. Moreover, Van Gundy made the drastic change of putting Reggie Jackson — who had started the last 50 games — on the bench in favor of Ish Smith.

It didn’t produce much difference in the offense and the signs are starting to point to a disappointing finish to this season, after the went 44-38 last season and ended their six-year playoff drought.

“We have 10 left and we can’t take back the last few games we lost. We have to regroup and come together and get some good rest and try to be the aggressive team in Orlando and get this thing rolling,” center Andre Drummond said.

“We believe we’re a really good team and we belong in the playoffs. It’s going to take a lot of work now and we don’t have any room for error. We’re going to need to win quite a few games to put ourselves in a position to get in the playoffs.”

Twitter: @detnewsRodBeard