The Pistons are struggling, on a 4-game skid, amid a string of teams against playoff contenders Rod Beard, The Detroit News
Detroit — Turning the calendar to December brought a surprise with the Pistons’ victory over the Golden State Warriors. The bitter cold has come since, with four straight losses, to the Thunder, Bucks, Sixers and Pelicans.
The schedule doesn’t let up, with big games at the Sixers Monday, at the Hornets Wednesday and home against the Celtics and Bucks after that.
It was one of the caveats of the early surge the Pistons had when they were 13-7 — the schedule was going to get tougher and the true test wasn’t Golden State, but the teams after in the schedule.
Sunday’s loss to the Pelicans hurt because Anthony Davis had only six points and missed most of the first half.
That result goes next to the disappointment in falling to the Sixers, who were without Joel Embiid (rest) but managed a 117-111 win on Friday.
When there’s excitement about potentially getting over the hump, it’s almost immediately doused by another losing streak.
Langston Galloway said the swings are not frustrating, based on the eye test and the bigger picture of their production during those losses.
“It depends on how we’re playing. It’s not like we’re out here giving up (big points). The first two games we lost, we were getting blown out,” Galloway said.
“You have to blow those up and move on to the next one and find a way to build that energy. This last one, we brought a lot of energy, but we have to build on it and find any good piece we can take out of it and try to go to the next one with it.”
The next few don’t look any easier — and they could help shape how the Pistons view their outlook ahead of the trade deadline approaching in February.
The Monday Drive sifts through the ashes of the four-game skid ahead of the two-game road trip to Philadelphia and Charlotte:
►1. Maybe the bench isn’t the problem after all. For all the lamenting about how bad the second group is, they’ve been good in the last two games. In Sunday’s loss, they accounted for 41 points, including a season-high 24 for Langston Galloway, on his 27th birthday. The starters play at a different place, centered around Blake Griffin, but the bench plays more freely, with an unlikely lineup that includes Jose Calderon and Jon Leuer.
They’re mostly veterans and they know how to get baskets when they need them. That was one of the biggest revelations of the past week.
►2. Another revelation is that Leuer can still produce. Although most of his production this season has come when the game was already decided, he’s been better the past two games.
He had nine points and four rebounds in 13 minutes, including a big-time dunk over Julius Randle. Leuer played in just eight games last season — the final one against Randle and the Lakers. Griffin told Leuer before Sunday’s game that he looked a bit more “bouncy.” It’s starting to show.
►3. Reggie Jackson looked more like the Reggie Jackson of 2016 last week. Now, he’s looking like the 2017 or ’18 version. He’s not engaged in the offense and doesn’t have the same proficiency from the 3-point line, either. With Reggie Bullock (sprained left ankle) out of the starting lineup, they desperately need another scorer and haven’t been able to get a boost from Galloway in his one game, nor from Bruce Brown. That makes it easier for teams to double-team Blake Griffin.
►4. The fan base has made it clear on social media that it is ready for a trade. As has been trumpeted many times in the past season or two, the Pistons don’t have a lot of trade assets that other teams covet. Even if they did, they would have to make an imbalanced deal, getting less back in return.
Jackson’s name has come up many times, but it would take a team willing to take on his salary of $17 million — and give back a player with a similar salary. There aren’t many teams who fit that mold. It’s a bit more complicated than just firing up the Trade Machine and casting away players who are struggling.
►5. Glenn Robinson III joined the starting lineup in early November and looked to be a good fit there, but he’s struggled in the past couple of weeks. He is averaging 2.3 points in his last eight games, with three scoreless games in that span. His minutes have diminished, with only 15 on Sunday.
With the injuries to Bullock and Luke Kennard’s slow return, there aren’t many other options to consider replacing him.