Auburn Hills — In the first quarter against the Thunder, Andre Drummond had the ball on the wing, above the 3-point line and wanted to pass. Some fans in the crowd at Little Caesars Arena gasped; others yelled for Drummond to take the shot.
Drummond missed the shot and almost everyone in the crowd groaned.
A couple possessions later, Blake Griffin was on the wing and tried to bank in a jump shot. It missed miserably, clanging off the backboard after missing the rim completely.
The head-scratching plays are symbolic of the way the game went for the Pistons, as the Thunder dominated and ended the Pistons’ five-game win streak. The Pistons had surged in recent weeks, but the poor showing — 33 percent on field goals and 19 percent on 3-pointers — was a setback.
“We got outside of what we normally do. A few times, we shot the shots they wanted us to take, instead of being patient,” coach Dwane Casey said Tuesday. “We had done a good job of that but (Monday) night, for whatever reason, we rushed some shots and tried to go one-on-one, when that’s not our game.”
It was something of an anomaly, as the Pistons (13-8) have played well in winning nine of their last 12 games. Casey lamented their lack of physical and mental toughness and pointed out that the Thunder didn’t do anything defensively that the Pistons didn’t expect.
Casey called it “laying an egg” in a marquee game.
“You’ll probably have a half-dozen of those in an 82-game schedule, where you don’t even recognize who you are or what we’re doing,” Casey said. “We’ll chalk that one up and learn from it, but we have to keep from repeating it.”
December is lining up to be a gauntlet, as six of the next eight opponents have winning records, including a pair of matchups against the Bucks and Sixers, who rank second and third in the Eastern Conference, just ahead of the Pistons.
It’s an opportunity for the Pistons to validate their surprising start to the season but the bad loss is another chance to mature and figure out how to prevent it from happening again.
“If there’s a time, now’s the time. We’re still growing and it takes this teachable moment because this month is going to be a bear,” Casey said. “We have to have the mentally tough, strong-minded men, including myself, to be ready to go.”
Guard Reggie Bullock, who sustained a sprained left ankle in Monday’s loss, didn’t make the trip with the team to Milwaukee and is questionable for Friday’s home game against the Sixers. Casey didn’t reveal who will start in Bullock’s place, but mentioned some requirements for whoever will fill that role.
“We’re going to do what’s best to get a good start and (chemistry) plays into it some,” Casey said. “We need to have physical toughness and mental toughness. A lot of things we did not display (Monday) night, we have to have in these next two weeks. If we’re not mentally tough, we’re putting ourselves in a hole…
“It’s the eye test and analytics plays a little bit into it — but it’s toughness. That’s the eye test. Who’s going to screen people, take charges, be physical and play hard? Those are the things we have to have.”
That description seems to suggest Langston Galloway or Bruce Brown as candidates and rule out Luke Kennard, who returned for his first game after missing 15 games because of a shoulder sprain. Kennard missed all five of his shots and seemed to avoid contact.
Casey said some of the tentativeness was to be expected after a long layoff but Kennard will need some time to work his way back into full playing shape.
“(Kennard) was really rusty and kind of in second gear. He avoided some situations, whether it was screens or cracking people or whatever, not wanting to hit his shoulder,” Casey said. “He needs a little bit more time, understandably. You just don’t walk back in against a very physical team like (the Thunder) and be ready to take those hits.”
Pistons at Bucks
Tipoff: 8 Wednesday, Fiserv Forum, Milwaukee
Outlook: The Pistons (13-8) suffered their most lopsided loss of the season, a 27-point blowout to the Thunder. Giannis Antetokounmpo is having an MVP season, averaging 27.6 points, 13.2 rebounds and 6 rebounds.