Detroit — Dwane Casey sat on the Pistons bench, annoyed.
On Monday night, the Cleveland Cavaliers were running up and down the court, sashaying through the lane for easy baskets and hitting 3-pointers, almost at their leisure.
Not the Lakers. Not the Bucks. Not the Clippers.
It was an unsightly juxtaposition, given that it was the Pistons’ first game since Kobe Bryant, the epitome of competitiveness and grit, was killed in a helicopter crash on Sunday.
The Cavaliers cruised to a 115-100 victory, just their 13th of the season and second of the year over the Pistons. It’s a head-scratcher, not only because the Pistons had designs on getting to the playoffs, but because of the porous defense in allowing Kevin Love to go 6-of-8 on 3-pointers and second-year guard Collin Sexton to run wild for 23 points.
“We didn't compete … We didn’t play hard enough. That was from the first play of the game to the end of the game,” coach Dwane Casey said Monday. “We talk about Kobe this and Kobe that. Believe me, rest his soul, he would be embarrassed with our non-compete level. That’s what was concerning for me.”
The lack of defensive effort inspired Casey to have the team watch a video on Bryant, highlighting his motivation and drive, as he was looking to infuse some of those intangibles into his squad.
Before Monday’s game, there were several homages to Bryant but when the game started, the Pistons didn’t have that competitive fire translate to their performance on the court. That’s what bugged Casey most and having some examples of Bryant to show seemed to be the best way to get his point across.
“(Bryant) was just talking about how you have to be driven shouldn't have to be motivated driven to be successful and they do,” Casey said after Tuesday’s practice. “And that's, that's the thing about (Monday) night in the second half was our competitive level. You shouldn't have to be motivated to come out and that's especially young players.”
Cavs guards Darius Garland and Sexton, lived in the paint and hurt the Pistons with their dribble-penetration, which was one of the other focuses of Tuesday’s practice.
“That was as bad as we’ve been at keeping the ball in front of us and knowing how close a guy can get to the ball without getting blown by,” Casey said. “That comes with being focused and the readiness you have to have, especially against two speedster point guards. We’ll see the same thing (against the Nets).
For the health of it
Within the past week, Casey has gotten a longer look at rookie Louis King and wanted to see Jordan Bone play a bit more. Injuries to some of the Pistons’ starters, including forward Tony Snell and rest days for Reggie Jackson and Derrick Rose have created windows where the two young players can see some quality time in the first half and for Casey to get a better evaluation of their talents.
“A lot of it today is injury and we’re down so many guys. We were down Tony and Reggie had a rest day,” Casey said. “A lot of it is health driven. We want to give them time and see them play but a lot of it is guys being out.”
Casey indicated that both Snell and Rose, who missed Monday’s game, could be ready to return to face the Nets, but that won’t be determined until Wednesday.
A couple of young Pistons players could be candidates to take part in All-Star Weekend next month in Chicago. Rookie Sekou Doumbouya and second-year Svi Mykhailiuk could be considered for the Rising Stars Challenge, pitting first- and second-year players on Saturday.
ESPN’s Marc Spears reported that the rosters will be announced on Friday and with the breakout season that Mykhailiuk has had, he could be one of the selections. Doumbouya has come on of late, but it’s not clear whether he would be chosen as well.
Pistons at Nets
Tip-off: 7:30 Wednesday, Barclays Center, Brooklyn, New York
TV/radio: FSD, ESPN/97.1
Outlook: The Pistons (17-31) have dropped four of their last five, including a 121-111 overtime loss to the Nets (19-26) on Saturday. The Pistons trail Brooklyn, which has the No. 8 spot in the East by 3½ games.