Observations: How little things added up to befall Pistons in latest loss

Detroit News

Rod Beard
| The Detroit News

The Pistons had played well at home, winning four of their previous five games at Little Caesars Arena, but against the Kings, who had lost nine straight overall, they couldn’t find the formula to keep their streak going.

In the first few minutes, the Pistons fell into an early hole, and although they dug out and took the lead in the third quarter, they couldn’t hold on, missing free throws down the stretch and allowing the Kings to take a 110-107 victory on Friday night.

Here are some takeaways from the game:

Smith’s point: Dennis Smith Jr. had his best game with the Pistons, with a season-high 17 points, on 7-of-13 shooting. Smith isn’t known for his 3-point shooting, but he made 2 of 5, including one in the fourth quarter that helped the Pistons regain the lead. He’s been getting more comfortable with the ball in his hands and playing a few more minutes of late than rookie Saben Lee, but with the way he’s breaking down defenses and making good decisions in the paint, it’s a worthwhile decision to keep him in the game. His defense is good and there isn’t very much dropoff with having either of them on the court.

No urgency: Casey noted that they Pistons would be getting the struggling Kings on the second game of a back-to-back and that they would likely be tired and not in for a track meet. The Pistons had a slow start and trailed, 16-4, in the first four minutes. The defense was porous and Marvin Bagley III got inside for some easy baskets and Buddy Hield hit a pair of 3-pointers. The Pistons looked to be the team on the back-to-back, but by the time they got to the third quarter, they were able to turn things around, taking the lead in the final couple of minutes. The Kings benefited from a couple of calls, but the Pistons didn’t help things either.

“Of all the things that happened down the stretch, (the slow start) was the most disappointing. We knew we had a hungry, wounded team coming in, losing nine in a row,” Casey said. “We had a similar situation against Indiana, who had lost (a lot) in a row, and we talked about how we had to play desperate and with energy, and keep the pace up and be smart and focused and locked in and we didn’t start like that. We were down, 12-3, in the first three minutes of the game.”

Purposeful miss: With the Pistons trailing by two, Josh Jackson missed the first of two free throws with 12.9 seconds remaining. On the second attempt, he looked to miss on purpose, and the Kings got the rebound, and Jackson was called for a foul on what appeared to be a clean steal. The Pistons couldn’t use their coach’s challenge because they had just used it on the previous play that led to Jackson’s free throws. Casey said that there was a miscommunication on what Jackson should do in that situation. It would seem better to make the free throw and cut the lead to one than to try to miss it on purpose, get the rebound and potentially tie it or take the lead.

“That was miscommunication on all of us. In that situation, we had a timeout and the other one, I don’t know what the communication between the players on the floor was, but it wasn’t good communication, period,” Casey said. “To learn from that, closing games and being in that position to close games is something we will definitely talk about.”

Not free throws: The Pistons made 21 of 32 free throws (66%) but they had misses at the worst times, including one by Grant with 1:00 left and two by Jackson with 12.9 seconds. Smith had an intentional miss, but all those added up in a three-point loss proved costly. Throughout the season, the Pistons had been an okay team with their free throws, but they lost the mental focus when they needed to make those attempts. That put them in a harder position to win the game down the stretch.


Twitter: @detnewsRodBeard

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