Pistons emphasizing better starts to prevent losses from piling up

Rod Beard
The Detroit News

Detroit — In some ways, the game was over before it really got started. It was a disturbing first quarter for the Pistons against the Sacramento Kings that led to another lopsided loss. It was just the way things started that made the lead tough to overcome for the final three quarters.

The Kings jumped to a 31-12, in the opening period, and they cruised the rest of the way, though the Pistons kept the final margin close to that initial span in the 129-107 loss.

Sacramento Kings guard De'Aaron Fox is defended by Detroit Pistons center Isaiah Stewart during the first half.

Opening quarters hadn’t been as big an issue in the previous games. The Pistons trailed the Toronto Raptors by three and the Cleveland Cavaliers by six in the first quarters of those games. In two of the three games prior to that, the Pistons led heading into the second quarter, against the Houston Rockets and Philadelphia 76ers.

Having good starts is a point of emphasis for coach Dwane Casey.

“First quarter, second quarter, third quarter and fourth quarter, we have to come out locked and loaded, and we did not do that the last game and building that consistency,” Casey said before Wednesday’s game. “We know the numbers on Indiana with their first quarters, we know how they come out of the gates running and pushing the ball. With us, we have to establish that playing personality of coming out ready to go, whatever it takes.

“Defensively or offensively, everything we do has to be done with energy and with focus. I hate to use the word ‘energy’ because I thought we were running the floor and moving, but we were just a half of a second late on everything, whether it is screening, talking on switches or whatever it was, and that killed us in the first quarter.”

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With the other issues they’ve had with scoring and reducing turnovers, the added problem of trying to play a near-perfect game compounds the complexity.

Scoring down around the league

Around the league, teams are having a harder time scoring. Some of the issues are surrounding the rules changes with tightening up on giving defenders more of the benefit of the doubt, especially when offensive players are making nontraditional basketball moves.

Last season, the officials were calling defensive fouls, but those are showing up as no-calls or in some cases, offensive fouls.

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The other big difference is in 3-point shooting numbers, reflecting the changing game.

“Switching does something to that. I know for us, we have a lot of factors, and I don't want to get into all of them, but switching across the league has something to do with the 3-point shooting going down,” Casey said. “You have to make sure you create a problem getting into the paint to collapse the defense and then kick it out, and at that time it has to be on time and on target. So, there are a lot of factors.

“Some people say it's the ball, I don't know as much. There is some research going on with the ball, but I don't know how much it is affecting Golden State. It could be the ball with some players, I don't know, but I think overall switching.

“A lot of teams are switching one through four or one through five, which creates a problem with 3-point shooting.”

Dipping deep into the bench

With the lopsided game, Casey has been able to go deeper into the reserve group to find minutes for other players such as Luka Garza and Rodney McGruder. In the Kings game, McGruder was solid, with six points in 10 minutes and in the Cavs loss, he had five points in six minutes.

Those aren’t huge numbers, but in limited minutes, that’s good production for a veteran who doesn’t play on a game-to-game basis.

"It's huge,” Casey said. “He's a true professional; he came in and he changed things a little bit and go us going, and he embraces that role."

rod.beard@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @detnewsRodBeard