Detroit — Through the first part of the season, the Pistons have been up and down, with players riding through injuries in and out of the lineup.
Blake Griffin, Reggie Jackson, Derrick Rose and, most recently, Andre Drummond, who missed two games because of eye inflammation related to an allergic reaction to avocados. The lineups have been a patchwork quilt of whatever players coach Dwane Casey could fuse together, with limited depth.
Add Christian Wood to the injury list.
It was a big problem early in the season, with Jackson, Rose and Tim Frazier all injured, leaving the Pistons without an experienced point guard. Mostly it has been starters, but now the trend is moving toward the reserve unit, which had been one of the stalwart groups around the league.
Wood suffered a knee injury in the second quarter of Wednesday night's 112-99 loss to the Toronto Raptors and though he hobbled to the locker room, he didn’t return in the second half. Casey indicated Thursday that it’s not a serious injury, but Wood will not be available for Friday’s matchup at Boston.
“I think it’s more of a strain than anything else. I don’t know the medical term for it, but we’ll wait for the MRI,” Casey said. “It’s another soldier (out of the lineup) and again somebody has to step up. The injury bug has been on us. It’s an opportunity probably for minutes for Thon (Maker) or Markieff (Morris) at (backup center) in that situation.”
Wood had been posting nine points and five rebounds while shooting a team-best 68 percent on 2-point field goals. After sustaining the injury against the Raptors, his outlook is uncertain, though he appears to have escaped a serious injury after attempting to drive to the basket.
However, Wood plays at one of the Pistons’ thinnest positions on the roster, with not many options in the frontcourt for Casey to consider. Maker looks to be the beneficiary, but Casey says there could be some other permutations to divide the minutes.
After Griffin missed the first 10 games of the season, the Pistons have tried to piece things together with their reserves. Casey noted the success they’ve had with being at full strength — as rarely as it’s happened this season — with both groupings.
“Injuries have taken away from that — and that’s part of the NBA. What we have to do is still find a way to win,” he said. “There are probably three games this year where we got spanked and probably had no chance to win but the other games, when you can look at different situations, we put ourselves in position to win. Whether it’s coaching or playing, we have to find a way to close those gaps and issues in close.
“(Wednesday night), after looking at it, it wasn’t as bad as I thought. We were 3-for-17 on wide-open shots and I know we’re better. We were getting the right shots. We can look back at different issues, but we have to find ways to close those gaps and solve those issues, with whoever is playing.”
Casey has mentioned in recent weeks that the Pistons could consider more closely monitoring Rose’s minutes, to ensure that he stays healthy and doesn’t have to miss more games than necessary.
Rose had hamstring issues earlier in the season and they don’t want to push him toward more minutes that could increase the chances of recurrence.
“We have to watch his minutes. We cheated a bit on his minutes and it was 28 or 29 in the Houston game (on Saturday)," Casey said. "We have to watch it to make sure it doesn’t stay up there. We can’t let it continue to escalate when he’s on a minutes restriction.
“We have to be smart with it to make sure we keep it at a certain number. It’s very difficult because he’s playing at a high level and we’re a different team when he’s out there on the floor. For him to hold up the rest of the season, we have to make sure we keep his number at the right level.”
Pistons at Celtics
Tip-off: 7:30 p.m. Friday, TD Garden, Boston
Outlook: After some early bumps, the Celtics (18-7) have found their groove behind Kemba Walker (23.5 points and 5.2 assists) and their young core. The Pistons (11-17) are struggling with injuries, with Christian Wood dealing with a left knee strain.