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'The fight has to be there': Pistons get another shot at Celtics

Rod Beard
The Detroit News
On Saturday, the Celtics managed to neutralize Blake Griffin, whom the Pistons have leaned on for offense and to create mismatches.

Auburn Hills — It was all there for the taking.

The Pistons were unbeaten and ready to face their biggest challenge, on Saturday, facing the favorite in the Eastern Conference in the Boston Celtics.

When they got on the big stage, they didn’t remember their lines and got some stage shock. The 20-point blowout to the Celtics was a lesson in where the Pistons have to get, both in their intensity and consistency.

Coach Dwane Casey felt they were lacking on both ends of the court, as the Celtics (4-2) built an early lead and never let it get below double digits in the second half.

“I’ll take the blame — our disposition was not good. I felt for our fans because the other night, we had (an excited) gym and the fans were there and we came out and played one of our worst games, all around,” coach Dwane Casey said Monday. “Our disposition has to be one with a chip on our shoulders; the fight has to be there.

“If you continue to fight and execute and compete, good things will happen.”

The Pistons have a chance to split the home-and-home on Tuesday night in Boston, taking the game video from the first meeting as a starting point of where to make numerous fixes. That starts with getting Blake Griffin better looks at the basket and hitting some of their open looks that simply didn’t fall.

In the first four games, the Pistons seemed to lean on Griffin’s offensive prowess and the mismatches he created, but the Celtics, who are rated the best defense in the league, had different looks for Griffin.

After Griffin’s hot start from the offensive end, the Pistons relied on him and didn’t seem to get another scorer going or establish an offensive rhythm after the Celtics took away their best option.

“We can’t depend on Blake to get 50 or 40 points for us to win. Everybody else contributes to that,” Casey said. “He hopefully doesn’t feel that pressure, but everybody has a job to do on a play.

“Guys have to cut, run, and get easy buckets. If we’re going to be a running team, we have to run. It’s hard to do. You have to be in great shape to run on offense and run back on defense and that’s the mentality we have to have.”

The Celtics had a plan to neutralize Griffin, varying their double-teams and taking the ball out of his hands, forcing other Pistons to contribute. When the shots didn’t fall, the offensive struggles seemed to seep over to the defensive end as well.

That affected the Pistons’ psyche on the offensive end, which is one thing they’ll try to fix for the rematch.

“They just found a way to make it tougher on all of us tonight and tried to double him and switching,” guard Reggie Jackson said. “They were just trying to force him out of the game and we have to do our part to open it back up for him. They did a good job defensively all around.”

Drummond's mission

Andre Drummond has gotten off to an inefficient start on the offensive end, taking some errant shots from 3-point range and struggling to find smooth air in the paint.

The Pistons are trying to get him more touches inside the paint but the offense has to hit more shots, especially 3-pointers, to keep the defense honest. That’ll open things for Drummond, who has had some mismatches for most of the early season, aside from the showdown with the Sixers’ Joel Embiid.

Drummond has established inside position but hasn’t been able to turn those into points as frequently as they’d like.

“We want him on the early seal. If he has the defense on his back in the paint, we want him to catch it and go up strong and not shoot fadeaway jump shots. Those things are non-negotiable,” Casey said. “We have options for him if he doesn’t catch it deep in the paint that he should do. That’s the rhythm we have to get into. He’s open but he’s posted up at the dotted line.

“Now, all at once, we have another trigger we have that he’s got to come out and do. There’s a continuity to what good defensive teams do to you that you have execute and the other night we didn’t and we have to continue to grow. It worked for four games but we’re building something bigger.”

Pistons at Celtics

Tipoff: 7:30 Tuesday, TD Garden, Boston

TV/radio: FSD/WWJ 950

Outlook: The Pistons (4-1) were dominated in Saturday’s matchup, a 20-point drubbing in which Blake Griffin shot 2-for-13 and managed just seven points. The offense struggled, hitting just 37 percent from the field and 19 percent on 3-pointers.

Twitter: @detnewsRodBeard