San Antonio — When the outcome was in the balance in the last three minutes, the Pistons desperately needed to get a stop for a chance to stay close to the surging San Antonio Spurs.
The shot went up and four Pistons defenders started going the other way, almost assuming that Andre Drummond would get the rebound. It’s a reasonable expectation, as Drummond is the best rebounder in the league.
If the Pistons had been able to garner the rebound, they could have gotten in transition to try to get an easy basket. Instead, the Spurs got the basket and a quick whip pass to LaMarcus Aldridge resulted in an easy lay-in.
The sequence was part of a 12-2 run, after which the Spurs took their largest lead of the game and went on for a 96-93 victory on Monday night.
The mentality and poor execution frustrated coach Stan Van Gundy, who has seen the Pistons’ rebounding effort and production fall sharply in the past few weeks, coinciding with their three-game skid.
“We have other guys who are good rebounders. Nobody’s numbers will look good playing with Andre, because he gets so many that your numbers come down,” Van Gundy said. “A guy like Avery (Bradley) who averaged over six rebounds last year and Reggie (Jackson) — who in the past has been a big rebounder — their numbers fall.
“They’re still good rebounders but what you don’t want them to do is lose their sense of commitment on the boards. Andre may go up and grab 16 or 17 and there may be two or three you would have had on other teams. You still have to be in there; he can’t grab all of them.”
Rebounding on both ends has become a major issue for the Pistons, who depend on it as their lifeblood to start their transition game and to keep bigger opponents off their offensive boards and avoid easy putbacks.
Stanley Johnson added a season-high 10 rebounds, but there was good reason: he was playing with the reserves and didn’t have Drummond to contend with.
“Andre takes a lot of boards and now Stanley with the second unit, he had more opportunities,” Van Gundy said.
Van Gundy also pointed to their drop in the league standings, where they were sixth or seventh in defensive rebounding two weeks ago, but have fallen to 16th.
Although Anthony Tolliver started against the Spurs, it’s clearly not a permanent change to the starting lineup. It was more a counter to San Antonio’s big frontline, with Pau Gasol and Aldridge. Johnson had his first double-double of the season, with 14 points, but Van Gundy hesitates to make a change to improve one area when it could negatively impact two.
“There will probably be other times. Matchups, that’s what that was,” Van Gundy said. “That part of it, actually we were pretty good with that. Aldridge is impossible to stop, but (Tolliver) did as good a job as you can do.
“It wasn’t easy or comfortable for Aldridge. That’s about all you can ask, and he didn’t foul him much.”
PISTONS AT BUCKS
Tip-off: 8 Wednesday, BMO Harris Bradley Center, Milwaukee
Outlook: The Pistons (14-9) finish their stretch of nine of 11 games on the road, at Milwaukee — where the stretch of games started. The Pistons are 4-6 during the span, but have lost a season-long three straight.