Dallas — Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy saw the writing on the wall early in the third quarter.
After the Pistons gave up 43 points in the second quarter — their most points allowed in the second all season — he gave it a couple minutes to see if there was any fight left.
He found out quickly that there wasn’t.
The Pistons followed the defensive malaise just before halftime with an offensive rut in the third and it was time to throw the towel in. All that was left was the final score, a 110-93 flogging to the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday night at American Airlines Center.
“For the whole game, but especially the last three quarters, we had one team, Dallas, who played with a much higher level of intensity and a much higher level of offensive energy,” Van Gundy said. “It was too much for us; we could not stand up to their intensity and energy. We didn’t bring that to the game — and we got dominated.”
It started with Harrison Barnes (25 points) and the guards for the Mavericks (9-23), who got deep in the paint and put the Pistons defenders on their heels. Rookie Dennis Smith Jr., who returned from a six-game absence because of a left hip strain, added 15 points and Yogi Ferrell and J.J. Barea each scored 11 off the bench.
“Even though we were hitting shots early and made it a game, we never built a sense of urgency on the defensive end,” said Anthony Tolliver, who had 18 points in his second start of the season. “We started missing shots and they kept making shots.”
Stanley Johnson scored 16, Ish Smith added 15 and Andre Drummond had 11 points and 13 rebounds for the Pistons (17-14).
It’s just the second time the Pistons have lost to a team with a sub-.500 record — they fell to the Lakers by 20 on Oct. 31 — and the lack of defense was the culprit again. The Mavs’ big second quarter, coupled with the Pistons managing just 13 points in the third quarter, helped turn a 12-point halftime lead into a 23-point bulge heading into the final period.
In the third quarter, the Pistons scored the first five points, with a tip-in and alley-oop by Drummond, plus Tobias Harris’ free throw on a technical foul. After a jumper by Wesley Matthews (10 points), Tolliver was fouled and made all three free throws to pull the Pistons within 67-61.
Dallas answered with an 11-0 run, with two 3-pointers from Matthews and another from Ferrell, plus an uncontested drive by Devin Harris. They outscored the Pistons, 11-5, in the final four minutes — including a lay-in by Barnes for an 89-66 lead entering the fourth.
Drummond played just 22 minutes and Reggie Jackson 21, the lowest among the starters. When the margin remained above 20 in the fourth quarter, Van Gundy didn’t see a need to go back to the starters.
“I saw no signs beyond the first five minutes of the second half that our guys wanted to compete at the level of Dallas, so I didn’t see a need to bring anybody back in,” Van Gundy said.
Here are some other observations from the loss:
■ Van Gundy decided to go with a bigger lineup to counter the Mavs, with Tolliver starting in the frontcourt with Drummond and Harris, along with Jackson and Reggie Bullock in the backcourt. It’s the second start of the season for Tolliver, who is the preferred option when opponents start a larger front line.
■ Eric Moreland picked up three personal fouls quickly in the second quarter and was forced to head to the bench. When Drummond re-entered, he picked up his third foul with 3:34 left in the first half, sending Van Gundy scrambling to adjust the rotation with Boban Marjanovic in the final couple minutes. The Mavericks finished the half with a 17-4 spurt, with Tolliver playing some center to fill the void.
■ The Mavs had lost six of their last seven games, but Van Gundy remarked in his morning comments how hard they had been playing. It showed, especially in their 3-point shooting and effort.
■ Bullock cooled off from his 20-point performance against the Magic, managing just four points on 2-for-6 shooting in 24 minutes.