Washington, D.C. — Another early game, another loss.
Playing in matinees has not been the Pistons’ forte this season, as they managed just a 2-4 record in afternoon games this season.
Make it 2-5.
The Pistons got off to another slow start, with a double-digit deficit in the first quarter, and fell, 101-87, to the Washington Wizards at Capital One Arena on Martin Luther King Day. It’s the second straight loss for the Pistons, who were without Andre Drummond (concussion protocol) and Ish Smith (groin tightness) for both games.
“We didn't get started; we started playing in the second half. That was a concern going into (an) afternoon game,” coach Dwane Casey said. “There’s no excuse for it; we’re professional players and no matter what time the schedule says the game starts, we have to get started.
“You can’t coach effort and focus and if we don’t come out with it, it’s going to be like today, all over again.”
Blake Griffin had 29 points and nine rebounds and Reggie Bullock 12 points and seven rebounds for the Pistons (20-26), who play at New Orleans on Wednesday and at Dallas on Friday in their three-game road trip.
The early start times are not ideal for either team — home or visiting — but the Pistons haven’t adjusted well to the afternoon tips.
“I thought we just came out with low energy. Games like this, you have to find a way … weird time,” Griffin said. “We just have to find a way to have better energy. Other than that, I do not really know. I have not watched the film yet but obviously taking care of the ball I think helps, but creating our own energy is a must in games like these.”
The Wizards (20-26) led almost the entire way, with the Pistons taking a brief lead at 5-4 after the first two minutes. Trevor Ariza (20 points and 12 rebounds) hit a jumper to start a 14-2 run, with three-point plays by Tomas Satoransky (10 points and eight assists) and Otto Porter Jr. (19 points).
The Pistons managed just 17 points in the first quarter, finishing with a 3-pointer by Jose Calderon, and trailed by 12 points entering the second. The Wizards had another 12-2 run that pushed the lead to 45-25 at the 4:18 mark of the second quarter, with a 3-pointer by Beal and a lay-in by Ariza, to keep the game at bay.
“We had 31 points in the third quarter. You can’t wait to do that against a good team with some of the top scorers in the league in Otto Porter and Bradley Beal,” Casey said. “You can’t put yourself in that hole and expect to get out of it every time. Start the game the right way and play the right way. We did in the third quarter, but it was way too late.”
Lucas gets time
Casey found some playing time for two-way player Kalin Lucas, who was in his second career NBA game. Lucas (Michigan State), 29, scored his first NBA points as well, connecting on a pair of free throws in the second quarter.
“In this league you have to always be ready. When my number was called, I was ready to go out and compete and be aggressive on both ends of the floor,” Lucas said. “I pretty much knew last night (about playing Monday). They told me to be ready. I did all my pregame and they told me I was active, so I was ready.
“It definitely means a lot. At the same time, I haven’t done anything yet. My job is to come out and be aggressive.”
Lucas finished with two points and three rebounds, but after playing just one game with the Grand Rapids Drive, his energy and focus made an impression on Casey.
“I thought he was a scrapper. I like the way he plays. He got 50/50 balls. He didn’t stand around and watch it bounce a couple times before he made a move to go get it,” Casey said. “That's what I'm looking for. We got three or four guys, but we need more. We need more guys who are going to dive on the floor for loose balls, take charges, get back in transition, do the hard things hard.
“That's what we're trying to establish here because if you don't play that way we're going to be like we've been for the last four or five years. And if you're satisfied with that, you're in the wrong place.”