'It's a funk': Pistons stumble over rebuilding blocks in third straight loss
Detroit — In the post-trade deadline era, the losses look like they’re going to be piling up, as the Pistons go full-steam-ahead in their rebuild.
Some of the losses are going to be close; others are going to be blowouts. Monday’s defeat was somewhere in between. Still, a loss is a loss.
The Pistons dropped their third straight game, an 87-76 defeat to the Charlotte Hornets at Little Caesars Arena, which marked a four-game sweep for the Hornets in the head-to-head matchup this season. The Pistons head into the All-Star break following Wednesday’s road matchup against the Orlando Magic.
Thon Maker had 12 points and a career-high 12 rebounds, Bruce Brown added 10 points, 12 rebounds and five assists and Markieff Morris 10 points for the Pistons (19-37), who moved a half-game behind the Hornets for the fourth-worst record in the league.
It wasn’t a question of the Pistons’ effort, though; it was more of being shorthanded, without some of their top scorers.
“It wasn’t effort; I thought we were trying. I thought we just didn’t play smart,” coach Dwane Casey said. “It was execution, understanding where guys are going to be, screening and timing. We had some wide-open looks that we normally make and some point-blank layups that we normally make.
“It’s a funk that we are in and we hope to get out of it. Nobody is going to feel sorry for us; no matter what the goals or outlooks are, we just have to keep playing and keep competing.”
The Pistons got close early in the fourth quarter, after Morris made two free throws, pulling within 66-61. The Hornets (17-36) countered with an 11-2 run, including two baskets by Cody Zeller and a jumper by Devonte Graham (14 points, seven rebounds and 11 assists).
Maker ended the run with a three-point play off a putback dunk but Graham added two more jumpers and former Michigan State star Miles Bridges (18 points and seven rebounds) had a dunk, spurring a run that pushed the lead to 84-69 with 2:31 left.
“Overall, we had a pride about our defense tonight, just the physicality and energy,” Hornets coach James Borrego said. “We had a really sharp shootaround this morning. We talked about defense heavily last night in our film session.
“Our guys came out, executed and just took great pride on that end of the floor.”
Morris had a three-point play and after Malik Monk’s dunk and hanging on the rim drew a technical foul, Morris made the free throw, but the Pistons couldn’t generate much more offense to cut into the lead.
The Pistons shot just 35 percent from the field and 20 percent (7-of-35) on 3-pointers.
The Hornets steamed ahead in the first quarter, taking a 21-11 lead with five points from Monk (17 points) and seven points from Bridges.
► Maker continued to improve on the boards, with 11 rebounds. He’s been picking up some of the rebounding slack since Andre Drummond’s departure, but he still gets out of position and has trouble rebounding over big opposing players. He’s slid into the starting spot at center and his increased minutes have given him an opportunity to build his confidence — that’s a big takeaway as he heads into restricted free agency this summer.
► The Pistons are having trouble finding perimeter scoring with most of their shooters out. Jackson has had good production but other than that, the guards aren’t hitting from outside and providing consistent double-figure scoring to augment what the big men are doing. It makes them ultimately predictable and dependent on outside shooting.
► The Pistons predictably have had their rebounding troubles without Drummond, but managed to get an edge on the Hornets, 52-45, on Monday night. It’s been more of a collective effort in the last three games, even with bringing the guards down to help secure some of the boards. Getting defensive rebounds has been a problem, but they closed the gap a bit.
► The Pistons had 21 turnovers, which contributed to the downfall, and the Hornets generated 24 points off those miscues. It’s a familiar story of futility in taking care of the ball and how it hurts when there are limited possessions and the Pistons have trouble scoring.
► John Henson went 6-of-6 from the field in his Pistons debut on Saturday and then started with three makes on Monday. That 9-for-9 start was the best streak for a Piston since at least 1999-2000. Derrick Rose had a 6-for-6 streak in October.