Pistons' 'D' goes on snooze control in loss to Hornets

Rod Beard
The Detroit News

Detroit — Pistons fans have seen this movie before — only the characters are different.

This time, it was the Charlotte Hornets and Kemba Walker. Or Dwight Howard. Or Nicolas Batum. It didn’t seem to matter much. Whoever got in the lane, they got a high-percentage shot.

The movie ended the same way for the Pistons in the last couple weeks: another bad defensive performance — and another loss.

The Pistons didn’t put up much resistance in the paint and fell to the Hornets, 118-107, in a holiday Monday matinee at Little Caesars Arena.

BOX SCORE: Hornets 118, Pistons 107

Reggie Bullock and Tobias Harris had 20 points each and Ish Smith added a season-high 19 points and 10 assists for the Pistons, who have lost six of their last nine games.

“We got crushed in the paint: 60 points in the paint for them, 40 in the second half, on 20-of-27 in the paint,” coach Stan Van Gundy lamented. “They crushed us on the glass, they crushed us in the paint and that gave them the disparity at the free-throw line.

“They were going at us and we didn’t offer much resistance whatsoever. We just started with a six-point lead at the half and the first three defensive possessions of the second half just set the tone. We did nothing and they got rolling and we weren’t up to the task.”

The Pistons (22-20) have lost two straight to teams with losing record, mainly because of the defensive malaise. The Hornets shot 51 percent from the field, including 46 percent (10-of-22) on 3-pointers, using their inside-out balance with 21 points, 17 rebounds and four blocks from Howard in the paint and a season-high 21 points — with five 3-pointers — from Marvin Williams.

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Walker scored 17 of his 20 points in the second half, turning up the aggression and going right at the Pistons’ vulnerable interior.

“It’s something that we’ve been saying the last few games. We kind of saw the writing on the wall that if we’re not going to defend, then we’re not going to win games on a consistent basis,” said Avery Bradley, who had 15 points. “That has to be our identity; that has to be our mindset going into every game.”

Andre Drummond and Harris each had three fouls in the first half, which seemed to limit their defensive effectiveness. Drummond finished with a season-low three points but added 10 rebounds, five assists and three steals.

The Pistons had a 63-57 lead in the third quarter after Smith hit a floater and Bullock followed with a 3-pointer. The Hornets (17-25) answered with a 12-2 run, when Michael Kidd-Gilchrist scored six of his 11 points. The Charlotte lead got to 84-80 at the end of the third, after a pair of free throws from Jeremy Lamb (11 points).

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The Hornets had their largest lead, 106-88, with 4:57 left, after a 15-3 run — with seven points from Walker, who also finished with nine assists.

Harris responded with back-to-back 3-pointers and Bradley added another 3-pointer, pulling the Pistons within nine. Howard ended the run with a lay-in and Batum (14 points, 8 rebounds and five assists) hit a pair of free throws and the lead was back to 13.

The Hornets never let the lead get back under seven the rest of the way and won their fifth in the last seven games. They trailed, 56-50, at halftime, but exploded for 68 points in the second half, finishing with six players in double figures.

Van Gundy focused on the lack of defensive effort in the loss and said there’s more to come if that area doesn’t improve.

“We need to put a lot more into the game defensively. I’m not worried about the record; I want to see us go out and defend every night,” he said. “It’s hard to win in this league and our team has been a team that for most of the year, has played really, really hard.”

Twitter: @detnewsRodBeard