Pistons not hitting panic button despite recent dip

Rod Beard
The Detroit News
Pistons coach Dwane Casey insists he's not changing the lineup as the team enters the final stretch.

Detroit — The Pistons have slid in the past two weeks, but there’s no sense of panic as the regular season winds down and the standings get tight for the playoff push.

In their poor start against the Denver Nuggets — with only nine points in the first quarter — the Pistons have begun to struggle in first halves more and trying to find an offensive rhythm has become a priority so that they don’t fall in too big a deficit.

Coach Dwane Casey said that there are no changes coming; it’s just trying to right the ship and figure out how to be more consistent in the opening minutes and the first half.

“I don’t know what else I can do from a coaching standpoint. We’re not changing the lineup — that’s not up (for discussion) — but we can appeal to our guys’ pride and to my pride and the coaches’ pride to get going early,” Casey said. “The Denver game, there were a lot of factors in that but no excuses to only score nine points in a quarter with the scorers we have. That recipe has to be there if we’re serious about making the playoffs.”

The Pistons are in a five-team group that’s separated by just 3½ games, vying for the final three spots in the Eastern Conference. The Pistons trailed the Nets by a half-game entering Thursday’s game and along with the Magic, Heat and Hornets, are making the final two weeks of the regular season more interesting in the hotly contested race toward the postseason.

With the Pistons’ recent close losses, there’s some frustration with how they’ve played, but the key is not letting that emotion bubble over into more than one game.

“I usually get over them about midnight; give me until midnight and I’m good. If you don’t, there’s something wrong. As a coach, you have to get ready for the next game and bounce back,” Casey said. “My focus went around midnight to Orlando (after the Denver loss). We’re all hot under the collar after the game because we’re competitors.

“There’s a sense of purpose in what we’re doing and our jobs as professionals. Things are under control; we’re never out of control.”

Down the stretch

In the last seven games, Casey is looking to provide more rest and to scale back on the practice schedule to ensure they have adequate energy. It’s a hectic schedule, with alternating games and days for the rest of the way, finishing with a home-road back-to-back in the final two games, against the Grizzlies and Knicks.

“Just like everybody else, we’ve cut back on practice and the intensity of our shootarounds. We cover a lot stuff and want to make sure we’re prepared. Energy-wise, physically, everybody in the league is on the same recipe right now,” Casey said. “The young guys can get out there and work and get their physicality and 3-on-3 and individual work on the court.”

3-on-3 tournament planned

The Pistons will host their inaugural 3-on-3 basketball tournament on July 13 at Little Caesars Arena. The event will feature more than 30 divisions, including separate groupings for men and women and boys and girls, as well as specific age groups (eight and older) and divisions for wheelchair competitions and for special needs.

Registration for the tournament at www.pistons.com/3on3.

The Pistons are expecting more than 800 players on a collection of outdoor courts around Little Caesars Arena. Each team will play four games, with some of the championship games played indoors on the Pistons’ home court. The champions in the Elite Division will have an opportunity for a tryout with the Grand Rapids Drive in the Gatorade League.

Proceeds from the tournament will benefit charitable organizations that support local youth through education, arts and athletics within the city of Detroit.

“We look forward to watching players of all ages and skill levels compete in a way that supports a key pillar of our ‘Basketball For All’ program making the game of basketball accessible for everyone,” Pistons vice chairman Arn Tellem said in a team statement.