New York — One possession here, one turnover there. One bad read, one miscommunication on a defensive switch. One step slow on a rotation, one step too far from a shooter to help defend the paint.
It’s the little things.
Generally, teams can overcome one or two little things not going in their favor. The Pistons are in a stretch where they don’t have a huge margin for error — and those little things are snowballing into big things.
In Wednesday’s overtime loss to the Brooklyn Nets, more of the little things reared their heads. Coach Dwane Casey insinuated that the defense wasn’t correct on Spencer Dinwiddie’s go-ahead 3-pointer with 7.1 seconds left.
“You live by the sword and you die by the sword. In the first few games, we were close and we were winning them and now we’re losing them,” coach Dwane Casey said Wednesday night. “It’s on ourselves, myself — everybody in this locker room. It’s mental things, leave the strong side corner and they knock down a 3, miscommunicate on switches and they knock down a 3.
“This team made us pay for every mental mistake we made. They’re a good 3-point shooting team, so we shouldn’t be surprised when we don’t execute our switches properly.”
On Blake Griffin’s shot on the final possession, Griffin said it wasn’t exactly what they drew up in the huddle, as they were looking for something more going to the basket.
“I don’t think forcing a shot is very good, but our play kind of got a little mangled. I just tried to get the ball up on the rim, early enough, and unfortunately it didn’t go in,” Griffin said. “Yeah (the play was to the rim), but it got to a low clock and trying to get a little bit of action before that.
“This is a game we should have won, so we can get caught up (in it) a little bit. We won in spite of our execution the first three games.”
There were other mental errors throughout the game, but those were magnified because of the stage of the game in which they occurred. Even on Dinwiddie’s 3-pointer, Drummond admitted that he let his former teammate get too comfortable out on the perimeter, instead of crowding him around the 3-point line to discourage the go-ahead score.
With a new coach and a new system on both ends of the floor, the Pistons are experiencing some growing pains in trying to figure things out. Casey warns that there can’t be many meaningful observations until after at least 10 or 15 games, but there are some things to pick apart after their 4-3 start.
The players see it as well.
Some of it is in Casey’s offense, which prioritizes 3-pointers and shots in the paint — but the Pistons rank 26th in 3-point percentage and 21st in 2-point percentage. Simply put, their shots aren’t falling — and playing without Luke Kennard (shoulder sprain) and Reggie Bullock (ankle sprain) won’t help their situation.
Familiarity with more playing time is the more likely remedy, but that’s going to come with some ups and downs, such as the overtime win over the 76ers and the blowout loss to the Celtics.
“It’s just more getting adjusted to a different style of play. We’ve had a chance to play with each other for a little bit at the end of last season,” Drummond said. “It’s pretty early in the season, so we’re still figuring it out and finding out positions and spots where people like the ball. it’ll come. I’m confident and my guys are confident it’ll come.
“The timing thing is tough. Now it’s like we’re playing freely but now we have to know when to do certain things on the court. It’s going to take a little bit of time. We’re fine.”
After Bullock sustained a sprained ankle in the first half Wednesday, he didn’t return in the second half and it’s unclear what his status will be going forward, including Saturday’s matchup against the Sixers.
Bullock is struggling from the 3-point line, hitting just 25 percent (7-of-28) with several going in and out.
“It’s just not falling right now but I’m going to keep taking those shots and they’re going to fall when they fall,” Bullock said. “I have to be ready to step into that shot and take them. My teammates and coaches believe in me to take them.
“When you try to force shots, trying to think about percentages. A couple games here, I’m going to go 4-for-7, 3-for-5 or 5-for-5 from the 3-point line and it’s going to go right back up. I have to continue to shoot the ball confidently and just handle everything on the defensive end, and once I get these shots, I’ll be fine.”
If Bullock isn’t able to play, Casey could turn to rookie Bruce Brown again, who is starting to look more fluid and comfortable in his playing time.
“I’m starting to relax a little more and I know teams are giving me the shot so I’m going to be ready to take them. I practice every day on that,” Brown said. “I love getting to the rim and the contact, so I’m going to continue to do that if I can.”
Brown was scoreless in his first two games but has perked up, with 9.5 points in his past two outings, including his first 3-pointer, on Wednesday night.