Pistons' 3-point woes complicate late bid to make the playoffs

Rod Beard
The Detroit News
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Detroit Pistons head coach Dwane Casey's team is coming down to the wire in its bid to make the playoffs.

Auburn Hills — The numbers against the Hornets were surprising: Langston Galloway, 1-of-7, including 0-of-5 on 3-pointers. Luke Kennard, 3-of-8, and just 1-of-5 from beyond the arc. Wayne Ellington, 4-of-9 and 3-of-8 on 3-pointers.

And that’s from a decent game.

Consider Ellington’s 3-of-12 (2-of-9 from beyond the arc) and a combined 4-of-12, plus 1-of-6 on 3-pointers in the loss to the Thunder.

Among the Pistons’ problems are an outage from their main 3-point shooters, which has impacted both the starting group and the bench as they make a late push to secure a spot in the playoffs. With Ellington’s struggles and Blake Griffin’s injury, the starters have struggled some and with Galloway and Kennard not providing the same punch with the reserves, it’s been tough to generate much in the second unit.

Ish Smith helped lead the comeback that came short Sunday, but with only two games remaining in the regular season, the Pistons (39-41) are looking for answers to their short-circuited offensive questions.

“That’s always been the age-old adage — it’s a make-or-miss league,” coach Dwane Casey said Monday. “When we’re making (3-pointers), we’re a really good team. That can be an excuse because there are underlying factors that cause those shots to miss sometimes.

More: 'Pressure' squarely on Pistons' shoulders with just two games to go

“Sometimes the defense gets there really quick and they’re closer than you think. Sometimes, we didn’t set good enough screens, or the pass was off target. That’s the attention to detail.”

Smith led the Pistons on Sunday with 20 points and just two 3-pointers, but the missing scoring punch from the other perimeter players is an offshoot of teams taking away those open shots and forcing others to beat them.

That’s given Thon Maker and others some good looks, but in the crunch Sunday, not finding a good, high-percentage shots from one of the main perimeter threats was a critical miss.

“We have to step up. It’s important for us to come off the bench and help out wherever we can,” Galloway said. “It’s important to give a spark. If we’re struggling, let’s try to get to the basket; if we’re rolling, just keep it going.”

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he Pistons overcame a 23-point deficit and were within one but couldn’t get over the hump. The had a couple of shots to take the lead but couldn’t get one to fall. Smith isn’t concerned about the droughts but knows that those stretches come along fairly often and that shooters just have to shoot their way out of them.

“Everybody goes through slumps. I look at so many teams that go through slumps and they keep it ticking and rolling,” Smith said. “You just have to find ways to win. For us, despite the slump, it still was 85-84 and if we get the lead, we win that game — I truly believe that.

Ish Smith

In Smith’s role, he tries to be a chameleon and fit in wherever the team needs him. Against the Hornets, that was as a primary driver and scorer, and he was able to connect on his midrange game to keep the Pistons in it.

Sometimes, he has to be a distributor or a pace-maker. He’s been able to find the right pitch on most nights, but when the other scorers aren’t at their peak, he has to increase his production.

“I read the game; that’s just how I am," he said. "Some nights, it calls for you to score. Some nights, I’ve had 17 points and some nights it’s eight pts, eight assts. Whatever the game calls for, that’s how you play it.

“(Tuesday), I might go in the game and have four points and 17 assists. I’m still going to kick it out (to the shooters) — I don’t care how many they miss or make. I don’t think that deep; it’s how the game is flowing and you keep playing.”

With the season winding down and Griffin’s injury a growing concern, Smith and the reserves have their work cut out for them. With defenses gearing toward taking away some of the Pistons’ strengths, it’s going to be who can adapt.

“When you get the reputation of being a shooter, teams are going to close out quicker and harder, so what’s plan B?” Casey said. “We didn’t do a good job of plan B, but better in the third quarter of attacking the paint and attacking closeouts and kicking it out.

“Our numbers were off the charts when the ball got to the paint then to the kickout. We have to understand that and see that."

Grizzlies at Pistons

Tip-off: 7 Tuesday, Little Caesars Arena, Detroit

TV/radio: FSD/97.1

Outlook: The Pistons (39-41) have lost seven of their last nine games and need to win their last two games to assure a playoff spot. The Grizzlies (32-48) are not playing most of their starters, including Mike Conley, Jaren Jackson Jr. and Avery Bradley.


Twitter: @detnewsRodBeard

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