Detroit — For most of the season, the Pistons had slogged through first quarters, their slow starts becoming the bane of their first half of the season.
The slow first quarters often were the precursor to a tough second quarter, when the Pistons’ reserves had to struggle through inconsistent production from their reserves.
Part of that is changing.
In their last 15 games, the Pistons have led after the first period 10 times, with a 4-6 record in those games. It’s not a huge sample size, but it’s a turnaround from the constant deficits and a reason for some optimism.
Against the Bucks, it’s been an issue this season, something that coach Dwane Casey was well aware of and wanted to turn around in Tuesday’s matchup.
“It is huge. They jumped on us at their place in the first quarter and didn’t look back,” Casey said before Tuesday’s game. “It’s very important for us to get out the gate quick with a sense of urgency — and it should be every night, with a sense of urgency and sense of desperation for where we are in the season and what we’re working for and trying to get to offensively and defensively.”
It’s just one area that Casey sees as critical in an important coming stretch of the season, as they approach the trade deadline on Feb. 7, in the midst of a four-game home stand, with some opportunities to gain ground and stay in the playoff hunt.
“If we have to tell grown me that this a crucial time in our season, a crucial home stand, we’re all in the wrong business,” Casey said. “Our guys know; they’re smart and understand the sense of urgency and intensity you have to play with. That should be a given.
“We have gotten off to good starts in the first quarter. The second quarter with the second unit has been our Achilles heel.”
While the Pistons have shuffled their starting lineups and reserve groupings through injuries to Ish Smith and Reggie Bullock, they’ve struggled. Without both of them Tuesday, they had to make another change, starting Langston Galloway and Glenn Robinson III in a shakeup.
Smith remained out with groin tightness, though Casey hinted that he might return this week.
Bruce Brown had been a starter but Casey may have been looking to add some add some 3-point shooting against the Bucks, who struggle in defending there.
“They’re going to score a lot of points and you have to be able to score also,” Casey said in the pregame. “They give up the most threes in the league, so that tells you that you’re going to get some open looks.”
The Pistons had used that starting lineup just once this season — a loss — and although they trailed again against the Bucks.
With the change, the Pistons’ bench composition changed as well, with rookie Khyri Thomas getting more playing time, with Brown as the point guard, a wrinkle that Casey had hinted has been in the works.
Casey is looking to get more dribble-drives, but without getting too deep in the paint. He said defenses now are trying to bait teams into deeper drives, as they’re more geared that way.
“Almost all the other NBA teams are doing it now. It’s the new coverage by a lot of bigs including (the Bucks’ Brook) Lopez. If you get too deep, it’s almost like a fly trap and you get stuck and you’re exactly where the defense wants you to go,” Casey said. “But there’s a moment there, there’s a place there where you can go, vault up and kick it out and it’s very important that you read that because a lot of times, you feel like you can go in and challenge that 7-footer.
“But no, they’re there for a reason. It’s important that you make a decision with the pocket pass or the kickout reading the tag from the weak side.”