Pistons looking to power past slow starts

Rod Beard
The Detroit News
Detroit Pistons head coach Dwane Casey

Boston — In the early part of the season, the Pistons have shown themselves to be slow starters. In four of the first five games, they fell behind by at least five points in the first six minutes of the game.

They’ve fought back to gain some traction in those games, with their only loss coming to the Boston Celtics on Saturday in a 20-point blowout loss.

The slow starts are a trend that they recognize, but it hasn’t been easy to get those turned around and throw the first flurry to get ahead in the early minutes instead of having to climb uphill and erase a deficit.

“It’s just something we’re trying to build as a team, something we know we know we need to go into games with — throwing the first punch,” guard Reggie Bullock said. “Boston had a chip on their shoulder and we were undefeated, they came into our house and they wanted to push the ball and to punk us.

“They leaned into us more and we have to be able to deliver those punches and protect home court.”

The Pistons go their chance for redemption on Tuesday night at TD Garden, but it’s a bigger trend that they’re going to have to get solved before the deficits get bigger and they aren’t able to make up the difference.

Better teams will be more adept at keeping the Pistons down and won’t allow them to come back as easily. Boston is such a team and it was evident by the second quarter, when the Celtics’ lead ballooned to 20.

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

More:Beard: Reggie Jackson adjusts to new role in Pistons offense

More:Celtics' Stevens respects Pistons' two-big strategy

“(In the first meeting) I didn’t think we came out with the proper disposition. Boston came out with guns blazing and physicality and we didn’t meet it,” coach Dwane Casey said Tuesday. “That’s on me. For our guys not to come out and be prepared for the physicality, that’s on me and all of us to meet that.”

Some of the early troubles are due to shots not falling and figuring out the defense and how teams are going to play certain actions. Some of it is just being mentally tough.

Casey said it’s part of a player’s DNA and their toughness will determine how they respond to taking the first flurry early in games — and that team mentality and being able to sustain their strength throughout the game.

“It’s got to be a part of who you are. If you want to be a playoff team or championship-type team, you’d better throw first punches, second, third and last punches,” Casey said. “Boston brought that mentality (Saturday) night. The second half we played was even. In the first couple quarters, they punched us and had us on our heels and we stayed there.”

Kennard locked in

The Pistons announced that they exercised the third-year option on guard Luke Kennard, which would pay him $3.8 million next season. Kennard, the No. 12 pick in the 2017 draft, looks to be a part of their long-term plan and will be a value at that salary number.

He averaged 7.6 points and 2.4 rebounds as a rookie last season and was starting to come on in his role as a reserve scorer this season.

Kennard is out for at least 2-4 weeks because of a shoulder sprain, sustained against the Cavaliers last week.

Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes reported that the Pistons declined the fourth-year option on forward Henry Ellenson, which means he will become an unrestricted free agent in July. It’s a somewhat surprising move for Ellenson, the 18th overall pick in the 2016 draft.

Ellenson had struggled to get playing time both under former coach Stan Van Gundy and has played in just one game this season with new coach Dwane Casey.

The 6-foot-11 big man has played in just 58 games in his two-plus seasons, posting 3.8 points and 2.2 rebounds.


Twitter: @detnewsRodBeard

Pistons at Nets

Tipoff: 7:30 Wednesday, Barclays Center, New York

TV/radio: FSD/97.1

Outlook: The Pistons beat the Nets (2-5) in the regular-season opener. Caris LeVert (Michigan) is averaging a team-high 18.9 points, with 4.4 rebounds and 4.6 assists.