Van Gundy has no answers after Pistons' latest loss

Rod Beard
The Detroit News

Toronto — Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy revealed Monday that Reggie Jackson may be about two weeks from returning from his Grade-3 right-ankle sprain and getting to full-contact practice.

That might be too late to help the Pistons salvage their season.

The Pistons’ slide continued with another loss, giving up a season-high in points in a 123-94 loss to the Toronto Raptors before a sellout crowd of 19,800 on Monday night at Air Canada Centre.

It’s the third straight loss and sixth in the last seven games for the Pistons (28-32), who have lost five straight on the road. Their last win away from Little Caesars Arena was Jan. 10, at Brooklyn; they dropped to 1-11 in their last 12 road games.

How do the Pistons pull out of their spiral?

“That’s a great question and it’s my job. As Harry Truman said, the buck stops here. If I had found that answer, we would be pulling out of it,” coach Stan Van Gundy said. “A lot of it comes down to simple things: run back, close out and make it tougher on people. You can’t hang your heads and feel sorry for yourself; you just have to play.”

Andre Drummond had 18 points and 18 rebounds, Ish Smith 16 points and Reggie Bullock 14 points for the Pistons, who next face the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday at home. After that, they have three more road games — at Orlando, Miami and Cleveland.

Beginning March 13, they have a six-game western road trip, finishing up against the Houston Rockets.

Not ideal.

Neither was solving the Raptors (42-17), who dominated with their All-Star backcourt of DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry, who had 20 points each. Serge Ibaka provided energy in the frontcourt, with 19 points and nine rebounds.

“They didn’t quit on the game at all, even though it looks like the score went up, but we’re still not doing a good enough  job in some areas we should be able to take care of,” Van Gundy said. “We’ll just keep working and trying to get better at that and keep exploring things we can do rotation wise or whatever. A lot of it is doing basic things well.”

The Pistons had been struggling in the second quarters, as their reserve unit fell into offensive droughts and created large margins for the starters to overcome just before halftime.

BOX SCORE: Raptors 123, Pistons 94

This time, it was the third quarter, with the starters, giving up a 16-2 run to start the period.

Whether it’s the second or third quarter, the defensive lapses and giving up huge runs is alarming.

“I don’t think it matters. It’s alarming that they come; when they come, I don’t think is really as alarming,” Van Gundy said. “You’re not going to very often give up 6-0 or 8-0 runs, but 14-0 or 16-0 runs, that’s really tough to overcome and it starts to spiral downhill. Psychologically with players, it’s tough.”

The Raptors led, 59-53, after the second quarter, following a 12-6 spurt, with a 3-pointer from Bullock and a lay-in by Smith, cutting the lead in half entering the third quarter. The Pistons gave up the big run, with seven points by Ibaka, five by O.G. Anunoby and four from DeRozan.

The Pistons closed to 93-75 after the third period, with a 3-pointer from James Ennis III (10 points) and a lay-in just before the buzzer.

In the fourth, the Raptors’ lead fluctuated around 20 points and the Pistons didn’t threaten again after that, with the reserves playing the final six minutes.

There’s still optimism from the players, but the schedule is dwindling, with only 22 games left.

“Playing as many games as I have, knowing ups and downs, knowing what other teams have gone through and will go through, we can’t hang our heads — nobody’s going to feel sorry for us,” Griffin said. “We’ve got to get back to work, figure some stuff out and we need some wins.”

More: Pistons' Blake Griffin still trying to find comfort level on offense

Here are some other observations from the matchup:

■Stan Van Gundy tried another variation of a playing rotation, going to Dwight Buycks and Luke Kennard as the reserve backcourt. That’s a change from the combination of Jameer Nelson and Langston Galloway, which had been getting more times the past couple games.

■Buycks was effective for the second straight game, after scoring 12 points in 13 minutes on Sunday against the Hornets. He had seven of his 12 points in the first half and added five in the third quarter.

■Blake Griffin got a technical foul after a made basket for arguing a no-call, then almost got a second technical for a dust-up with the Raptors’ Fred VanVleet. Griffin avoided a second technical, but VanVleet did get one.

■The Pistons’ bench, which hadn’t been contributing much over the past few games, totaled 32 points, but still paled in comparison to the Raptors, who scored 51. The reserve unit still has issues holding leads, but it was the starting group in the third quarter that allowed the big margin.