Stan Van Gundy talks about the Pistons' strengths and weaknesses after four games.
Auburn Hills — In their first four games, the Pistons have been hampered by foul trouble, sidelining some of their starters in the first few minutes and throwing coach Stan Van Gundy’s rotation into further flux.
It’s notably happened to Avery Bradley and Stanley Johnson — the Pistons’ best two perimeter defenders — and they’ve had trouble finding a good rhythm on the defensive end. They looked forward to having both of the wings to wreak havoc; instead, they’ve been relegated to early time on the bench.
What’s worse is that it’s been putting the opposition on the free-throw line at an alarming rate, pushing the Pistons to the bottom of the league in a couple of defensive categories.
“We’re leading the league in fouls, we lead the league in free throws allowed — and they’re not from being physical,” Van Gundy said Tuesday. “In fact, a lot are from not being physical — we slap and reach instead of moving your feet and getting your body in front of somebody. Slapping down on a guy going to the basket instead of staying vertical and taking contact in the chest.
“It’s not like we’re this really physical; we’re getting a lot of bad fouls and it’s something we need to correct.”
Part of the issue is Van Gundy’s insistence this season on playing a more in-your-face defensive style, pressuring the ball more and not allowing ball-handlers to get easy passing lanes or to attack with drives to the basket.
It’s a higher level of aggression that takes some getting used to, and the Pistons aren’t getting favorable calls in their efforts to ramp up the intensity. Between the fouls and the lackluster opening quarters, the impact on the starting unit is palpable.
Some of that residual impact works against the starters on both ends of the court, making the slow starts put the reserves in an early hole.
“Our starting unit still needs to figure each other out. Adding Avery and Stanley to the lineup has been different for us,” center Andre Drummond said. “It’s not an excuse for our effort in the starts of games. The effort we’ve had after halftime and into the fourth quarter is the way we’re supposed to be playing.
“We have to find a way to come out with that kind of energy from the start of the game.”
Johnson tries to find range
Johnson is off to a slow start in the regular season — and after his 0-for-13 night in the opener, he seemed to bounce back. He had another tough one on Monday, going scoreless on only one field-goal attempt and not having a big impact on the game.
Johnson stayed after the game to get some extra shots up at Little Caesars Arena and spent some additional time with assistant coach Bob Beyer after practice on Tuesday to hone his game.
Van Gundy said there weren’t any reports from the training staff that Johnson’s back was bothering him and that he was cleared to play.
Galloway in stitches
Langston Galloway suffered a gash to the left side of his head and officials had to stop the game so medical staff could attend to it. Galloway went to the locker room and had to get stitches, but Van Gundy said he practiced fully on Tuesday and will be good to go against the Timberwolves on Wednesday.
Timberwolves at Pistons
Tip-off: 7 p.m. Wednesday, Little Caesars Arena, Detroit
Outlook: Minnesota will be playing its third game in four nights, including its best win of the season, at Oklahoma City. Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns are off to very good starts and Jimmy Butler, Taj Gibson and Jeff Teague add some needed experience.