Detroit — In the dog days of March, the Pistons are having to find ways to try to stay fresh with a condensed schedule. They finish the regular season with 14 games in 25 days, leaving little time to rest and recuperate between games.
In the recent stretch of four games in six days, they won the first two, but looked sluggish at times during the final two — blowout losses at Brooklyn and Miami — to add an emphatic question mark to their playoff run.
For coach Dwane Casey, it’s a juggling act, trying to find ways to get rest for his heavy-usage players such as Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond. He’s learned from his coaching stints in Seattle, Dallas and Toronto that there are ways to lighten the load without sitting players for multiple games, as has become the trend in the league.
“The old team we had in Dallas managed their life, their time and their rest and you find a way to get your rest,” Casey said Friday. “As professional players, fatigue can’t be what holds you back. Whatever you have to do — rest and space out on offense, whatever it is, pick your spots. But defense and rebounding can’t be areas to rest.”
While LeBron James sat out Friday, the Pistons haven’t had to do the same as often with Griffin, who has missed just two games this season, both because of rest. Casey said he doesn’t plan to sit Griffin down the stretch, seeing the importance of making the playoffs.
In today’s NBA, there’s a different mechanism for dealing with fatigue and trying to keep players fresh for the playoffs.
“With load management and travel, there are a lot of factors. Guys get tired and it’s mental fatigue,” Casey said. “We have to push through it; there’s no excuses if it’s important to us to get this franchise back on track. The only way to do that is fight, scratch and claw and grind.
“We’re not going to out-talent anybody; we’re going to have to do it the old-fashioned way and compete. Those two areas we had been doing it that way but with circumstances and travel or whatever.”
The Lakers stuck to the plan.
After falling out of the playoff picture in the Western Conference, the Lakers announced that they would monitor LeBron James’ playing time. The plan was that he wouldn’t play in back-to-back games and try to stay around 32 minutes per game.
Following Thursday night’s loss at Toronto — in which James played 32 minutes — the Lakers held him out of Friday’s matchup against the Pistons, citing “load management.”
It’s another break for the Pistons, who didn’t face James in the first meeting, a 113-100 loss in Los Angeles on Jan. 9.
The Pistons also could be shorthanded, as Reggie Jackson, who suffered a sprained ankle in Wednesday’s loss at Miami, is listed as questionable. Jackson stepped on Zaza Pachulia’s foot and twisted his right ankle and looked to be in severe pain, writhing on the court for a minute.
He was icing the ankle in the locker room following the game but said that he’d be fine.
The Pistons’ starting backcourt could be in flux also, as Bruce Brown, also nursing a sprained ankle, is listed as probable.
Pistons owner Tom Gores welcomed a group of more than 50 Flint children for the game. The students, from Doyle Ryder Elementary School, are part of an initiative called “Flint Kids Are,” sponsored by Gores’ FlintNow group, the United Way of Genesee County, the NBA Players Association and Hurley Children’s Hospital.