Casey scoffs at Antetokounmpo's claim Pistons 'want to be dirty'

Rod Beard
The Detroit News

Detroit — Dwane Casey slid in his commentary without trying to offend, but also clarifying that his team isn’t dirty.

It’s the fallout following the Pistons’ 127-103 loss to the Bucks on Wednesday, when reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo claimed that the Pistons had crossed the line in trying to be physical with him.

Pistons forward Blake Griffin pulls on Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo's jersey during Wednesday's game against the Bucks.

Blake Griffin and Antetokounmpo had a couple of run-ins during the game and there were a couple of dust-ups, which cooled down after referees issued a couple of technical fouls. Still, there were some words exchanged — and the feeling that the Pistons were trying to play a little tougher.

“They just play hard,” Antetokounmpo told media members. “They want to be physical, they want to be dirty, they want you to get out of your game. Whenever you come in Detroit you expect that. Nothing that happened tonight wasn’t expected.”

It’s the style that Casey wants his team to play, without trying to injure anyone or cross the line of being dirty in the “Bad Boys” style of the Pistons teams in the 1980s and ‘90s.

Casey has tried to focus on improving the physicality on defense and playing a little closer and letting the opponents feel their presence. Still, he doesn’t want the Pistons to be known as a dirty team that goes after the opposing team in that way.

“I cringe when people say we’re playing dirty basketball and all that stuff. We want to play physical; we want to play clean, physical, hard-nosed basketball,” Casey said before Friday’s game against the Indiana Pacers. “We’re not trying to be the Bad Boys — there’s only one Bad Boys group — but I cringed when people said our guys were playing dirty the other night against Antetokounmpo. Nowhere even close.”

The Pistons did play closer in the first half but the outcome was much the same as the previous 15-point loss on Nov. 23 and the four games in the playoffs last year. That’s where the Pistons are looking to close the gap — not just in the score, but in the level of competition.

Extending that from just the first two quarters to the full 48 minutes is the next step that Casey wants to achieve.

Casey said it wasn’t a matter of trying to be tougher against Antetokounmpo, it’s just something that needs to be developed and possibly taught.

“I think you have to have a physical DNA first. The only way I know how to teach it is to create it as a habit,” he said. “You can’t do it just one night against a great player; you have to do it each and every night and make it a habit.

“Physical is not just on the defensive end; it’s physical screens and it’s being physical taking the ball to the hoops with taking it through tough bodies and getting hit through physicality on their defensive end.”

Early farewell

The Pistons finished their four-game head-to-head against the Pacers — early in a sense, in that most times, it’s not until February or March that a team finishes all five games against an intra-conference foe.

The Pacers didn’t have All-Star guard Victor Oladipo for any of those matchups, a distinct disadvantage, but after the Pistons won the first two meetings, the Pacers played tough.

“All of these games have been different. Each game we’ve played, there was a player or two out for each team,” Pacers coach Nate McMillan said. “With Griffin being in the lineup and (Reggie Jackson) still out, it’s still a different lineup.

“They are a physical team that’s going to try to pound you in the paint and they are shooting the lights out from the 3-point line.”

Twitter: @detnewsRodBeard