Pistons' loss 'one of the worst' of Van Gundy's career
Detroit — The snowball that is the Pistons’ losing streak is gaining steam.
It’s steamrolled past six, to seven.
Maybe eight is enough. Maybe more.
The skidding Pistons played their most lackluster and dispirited game of the season, putting and exclamation point and a question mark to what had been a positive start in the first 20 games of the season.
The latest result was a 103-84 letdown to the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday night at Little Caesars Arena. It’s the seventh straight loss for the Pistons (14-13), who are hovering above .500 after an impressive 14-6 start.
A sullen coach Stan Van Gundy had strong words after the loss, not saving the superlatives in his response to questions about where the loss ranked.
“I’ll rank it for you — that’s one of the worst ones I’ve ever had as a coach,” he said. “I’ve coached 850-plus regular-season games, plus playoffs — and that’s one of the worst ones I’ve ever had.”
The bench was the lone reason for optimism, as Langston Galloway had 18 points and Boban Marjanovic 14 points and five rebounds. The reserves provided a temporary jump start, but a leaky interior defense stalled the forward momentum when the starters returned.
“It just sucked; it wasn’t enough,” said Reggie Jackson, who had 12 points. “It’s starting to get frustrating the way we’re coming out not swinging. We’ve just got to do what we’ve got to do and find a way to be the aggressor.”
The offense struggled again, matching a season low with just 28 field goals and shot just 35 percent from the field. Andre Drummond had five points and 10 rebounds, but after the Pistons’ deficit ballooned to 22 midway through the third quarter, there wasn’t much but the final score to be determined.
“I’ve got to find the answers. I’m not running from the responsibility. This is on me,” said Van Gundy, who also is the team president. “I selected these players, I decide who plays; I decide what we run on offense; I decide how we play defense.
“That was an embarrassment tonight — and that’s on me.”
Jamal Murray had 28 points on 11-of-19 shooting and Wilson Chandler added 18 points for the Nuggets (15-12). Their backcourt outpaced, outhustled and outshot the Pistons from the opening tip.
Within the first nine-plus minutes, Denver had raced out to a 20-8 lead, with seven points each from Murray and Chandler. Mason Plumlee had six of his 10 points in the opening quarter, and finished with a season-high 13 rebounds.
The Pistons finished the first period on a 10-6 spurt to get within 26-18. They closed to 33-30 after a hook from Marjanovic, a pair of 3-pointers from Luke Kennard and another from Anthony Tolliver.
But the Pistons never got any closer.
Trey Lyles (20 points) scored on a drive and 3-pointer and Chandler finished the half with a 3-pointer and two free throws, as the Nuggets led, 49-40, at halftime.
Van Gundy kept the same starters — with Reggie Bullock in at small forward — and after two free throws from Tobias Harris, Murray added a drive and a 3-pointer to get the lead back to 12.
Murray had 13 points in the third quarter and Marjanovic hit two free throws to close the third quarter with an 80-60 deficit.
Here are some other observations from the blowout loss:
■Reggie Bullock started at small forward, replacing Stanley Johnson, who has struggled the past couple of weeks. Van Gundy hinted before the game that Bullock would get some playing time, but didn’t reveal the starting role until pregame introductions. Bullock brought some energy but the rest of the starting group didn’t bring much more.
■Van Gundy mentioned before the game that Henry Ellenson has been getting some practice time at center because of the logjam at power forward. It came to fruition in the fourth quarter as he finished with seven points and two rebounds in eight minutes, mostly playing at center with the reserves.
■The Pistons continued their offensive struggle, with only 40 points in the first half, after they scored only 37 points in the first two quarters against the Celtics on Sunday. It’s a disturbing trend, which likely led to the switch with Bullock joining the starting lineup to bring more flow to the offense.
■Stanley Johnson entered in the third quarter and played 15 minutes, but shot 0-of-3 from the field, missing his only 3-point attempt.