Pistons not sweating mini-skid in tough schedule

Rod Beard
The Detroit News

San Antonio — The sky isn’t falling on the Pistons. Not at this point, not after a two-game losing streak.

It might seem that way because two is the longest losing streak through the first 22 games of the season. At 14-8, they still rank fourth in the Eastern Conference and are achieving above almost everyone’s expectations.

They’re also in a tough stretch of playing just two games in an 11-game span at home. They were 4-5 entering Monday night’s matchup at San Antonio and finish the trip Wednesday at Milwaukee. The weekend features two more tough opponents: home games against the Golden State Warriors and Boston Celtics, both of whom the Pistons have beaten on the road.

“We’re playing nine of 11 on the road. That’s when you get into some streaks and things. The schedule has something to do with it,” coach Stan Van Gundy said Monday morning. “It’s not like we’re playing sub-.500 teams at home and losing games. You can’t get caught up in all that stuff. It’s a matter of how you’re playing.

“The problem with us is in four of the last five games, we’ve played one good half and one bad half — and that’s not enough.”

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The Pistons are 8-2 at home and 6-6 on the road, showing they can win in some of the most difficult venues in the league, while having trouble in some others. They have the best road wins in the league so far, but the issue is more about mental toughness and executing than anything else.

“I don’t think confidence is an issue with us. We know we can play and we have what we need to win anywhere; I don’t think that’s an issue,” Van Gundy said. “We just have to get the job done.

“The real issue is the other teams are trying to win too. That’s the part that everybody always leaves out. Why are you losing? Some of it is the other team.”

In this stretch of games, only Oklahoma City (10-12) and Phoenix (8-14) — both Pistons victories — have sub-.500 records.

As the Pistons look to improve on their winning culture, it’s been critical to keep the right mental approach to each game and be undaunted by playing on the road, which has been a plus. They’re almost halfway to their road-win total from last season, when they tallied just 13 victories.

“It’s a really tough schedule and you just have to go out and play every night. If we play our best, we’re capable of beating anybody,” Van Gundy said. “In that entire stretch of 14-16 games, if you were an analyst — I never look at any game this way — but what’s the game they should win, it’s Phoenix, in the entire stretch.

“Everything else is a toss-up, at best. That’s just the stretch you get into. It’s a hard stretch, but it’s good in some ways.

“We’re finding out things we need to do better and it forces you to play at a higher level.”