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The Pistons scored a season-low 86 points and lost to the Hornets for the third time this season. Rod Beard, The Detroit News

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Charlotte, N.C. — Win a few. Lose a few. Win one. Lose one.

That’s how a team gets to a .500 record — and that’s the path the Pistons are on, through the first 30 games of the season.

After Wednesday’s victory — one of their better wins in Casey’s first season at the helm — the Pistons followed it up with a sluggish performance, falling to the Charlotte Hornets, 98-86, on Friday night at Spectrum Center.

For the Pistons (15-15), it’s thefewst points in a game this season, the second loss to the Hornets in the last 10 days and the third this season, giving Charlotte the head-to-head tiebreaker if it comes to it at the end of the season.

BOX SCORE: Hornets 98, Pistons 86

“Our give-a-crap level was very low. For a very important game like tonight, when you are a winner, you come out and take this game and come ready to fight,” coach Dwane Casey lamented. “I’ll take the blame for it. I didn’t get our team ready enough to come out and compete and fight.”

The Pistons overcame a 14-point deficit in their impressive win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday but instead of building momentum, they fell back to .500, a half-game behind the Hornets (16-15).

More: Flu bug can't keep Pistons' Andre Drummond down

“We are up and down. (Wednesday night), we played like a playoff team and tonight we played like we didn’t even recognize each other,” Casey said. “I’ll take the blame for that. Like I said in the beginning, you have to be consistent, in our habits, our approach and our position had to be consistent. I didn’t see it tonight and it very unfortunate…

“As good as I thought we were against Minnesota, we were the opposite tonight.”

Blake Griffin had 23 points, seven rebounds and five assists, Andre Drummond 17 points and 16 rebounds and Reggie Jackson 12 points, six rebounds and four assists for the Pistons, who have had a losing record for just one game this season.

The Hornets struggled on offense as well but had a 45-40 lead at halftime. They took off from there, with a 12-2 run to start the third quarter. Marvin Williams, who had a career-high seven 3-pointers and a season-best 24 points, had three 3-pointers during the Hornets’ 12-2 run in the first three minutes of the second half.

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The Pistons fell to the Charlotte Hornets for the third time this season, 98-86, on Friday night. Rod Beard, The Detroit News

Williams was 7-of-11 on 3-pointers and 7-of-11 from the field and the Pistons didn’t have many answers on how to keep him in check.

“There were breakdowns. He’s a pick-and-popper and we’ve just got to be able to rotate to him quicker or whatever we want to do, to be able to get to him a lot quicker,” said guard Reggie Bullock, who had 11 points. “He had a lot of open looks and he was shooting pretty quick, so we just have to do better with our switches.”

The Hornets led by 14 before the Pistons answered with a 7-3 spurt, with two baskets by Drummond. Williams stayed hot, with a free throw and another 3-pointer. Stanley Johnson hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to pull the Pistons within 75-65 entering the fourth quarter.

The Hornets led by 15 in the third quarter but the Pistons cut it to 83-78 with 4:44 left in the game on Jackson’s three-point play. The Hornets answered with a floater and 3-pointer by Jeremy Lamb (11 points), who split a pair of free throws for six straight points. Kemba Walker (22 points) added a 3-pointer and the lead ballooned back to 12 at the 2:38 mark.

Jackson added another 3-pointer, but Walker responded with another. Griffin’s three-point play with 1:45 left got the Pistons within single digits but Williams closed the door with his final 3-pointer 21 seconds later.  

“It was very disappointing. We had a lot of great looks and we just weren’t knocking down shots,” Langston Galloway said. “Our bench — myself included — struggled tonight and we didn’t help the starting unit at all.”

Observations

1. Drummond had a bout with the flu earlier Friday and need some intravenous fluids before the game. He didn’t have his normal energy but he was good enough for a big-time double-double, working his way through the sickness. He missed two 3-point attempts in the game — after making his only one on Wednesday at Minnesota.

2. Seeing which point guard will finish the fourth quarter has become a game-to-game situation worth monitoring, Reggie Jackson got the nod on Friday. Jose Calderon was good, with six points on a pair of 3-pointers, but Jackson was good in his time in the first half as well. It’s a development to watch, but as he did against the Timberwolves, Jackson made some big baskets down the stretch.

3. The bench group struggled offensively, scoring just four points in the first half, with a basket each from Zaza Pachulia and Bruce Brown. They went 2-of-12 from the field and 0-of-7 on 3-pointers — and just had a hard time generating any kind of offense. The Pistons managed just 19 points, in the second quarter, their second-lowest output in a second period this season.

4. Luke Kennard has struggled in the starting lineup since his initial start, when he had a career-high 28 points. In the five games since, he’s totaled 22 points and just 6-of-28 (21 percent) on 3-pointers. He went 0-of-3 from the field and missed both attempts beyond the arc on Friday night and never looked to find a rhythm in the offense.

5. The 3-pointers were falling against Minnesota, but the Pistons had more regression to the mean against the Hornets. They went 8-of-34 (24 percent) from beyond the arc and only Bullock (three) and Griffin (two) had multiple makes. It’s going to be a nightly situation but the Pistons aren’t getting them to fall when they need them. Casey has focused on the missed open attempts, but the bigger issue has been finding good setups for good looks.

Rod.Beard@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @detnewsRodBeard

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