Pistons lose six straight, fall back to earth amidst tough December

The Detroit Pistons were flying high to begin the season. They got off to their best start in years with a 14-6 record, sitting with the second best record in the Eastern Conference for majority of their first 20 games.  

The Pistons seem to have come back down to earth in the month of December. They have lost six straight games and have fallen way down in the Eastern standings. They currently sit with a 14-12 record and are tied for the sixth best record in the East.

Their past six games have been brutal matchups.

The Pistons started a six-game road trip with an 18-point loss to the Washington Wizards. Although center Andre Drummond filled up the stat sheet with 14 points, 17 rebounds, seven assists and four blocks, the rest of the Pistons were held in check.

The team as a whole shot just 44 percent from the field. Point guard Reggie Jackson scored just 12 points and turned the ball over three times while shooting guard Avery Bradley reached 13 points and forward Stanley Johnson scored just five points.

The Pistons were not rebounding well, as they were out-rebounded 49-32 on the night. The Wizards had 16 offensive rebounds as well, allowing them to have a number of second chance buckets.

Next, the Pistons went to Philadelphia and lost a tough matchup against the 76ers by a score of 108-103. Andre Drummond lit up the stat sheet for the second game in a row, scoring 14 points to go along with six assists, 11 rebounds and five steals. Drummond also shot 75 percent from the free-throw line.

The Detroit offense was in full force that night. Forward Tobias Harris led the scoring with 27 points. Right behind him was Jackson with 25 points.

Unfortunately, the Philadelphia offense was even better.

Although rookie sensation Ben Simmons was held to just five points, the other four Philadelphia starters managed to score at least 17 points. Center Joel Embiid led the charge for the 76ers, scoring 25 points and pulling in 10 rebounds. Small forward Robert Covington scored 25 points as well while pulling in eight boards. Guard JJ Reddick scored 18 points and dished out seven assists.

They put on a clinic to outscore the Pistons.

After that, the Pistons went out to San Antonio to play a championship-caliber team in the Spurs and lost a 96-93 nail bitter to an elite team.

Detroit actually led the game at halftime by a score of 53-50, and led by as much as eight points in the first quarter. The Pistons would hold the lead until the fourth quarter, when a three-point basket by Spurs’ forward Davis Bertans put San Antonio up 75-73.

With 5.7 seconds left in the fourth quarter, the Pistons trailed 94-93. Just before a shot clock violation by Spurs forward Rudy Gay that would have given the ball back to the Pistons, Harris committed a foul that sent Spurs’ forward LaMarcus Aldridge to the free throw line to shoot two, putting the Spurs up 96-93 in the final seconds of the game that they would go on to win.

In the Pistons next game, they had to play the Milwaukee Bucks led by Giannis Antetokounmpo, one of the most electrifying young players in the NBA. The Bucks won by a score of 104-100 over the Pistons.

The offensive production out of the Pistons’ starters was healthy. Drummond had his almost nightly double-double, scoring 27 points and pulling in 20 rebounds. Two other starters reached the 20-point mark, as Harris scored 21 points and Bradley scored 20 points.

The Milwaukee offense was just a little better. The Greek Freak went on to drop 25 points and 11 rebounds to lead the Bucks to a 104-100 win over the Pistons. Point guard Eric Bledsoe scored 22 points  and small forward Khris Middleton scored 21 points to compliment Antetokounmpo. Detroit did not lead once during the game.

After a long road trip, the Pistons came back home to Detroit on Friday night, but they had to face the reigning NBA champ Golden State Warriors. Point guard Steph Curry sat out with an ankle injury, but that didn’t slow down the Warrior’s offense.

Kevin Durant dominated in the the Warriors’ 102-98 victory over the Pistons. Durant scored 36 points with 10 rebounds and seven assists to lead Golden State. Klay Thompson dropped 21 points to compliment Durant’s performance.

After that, the Boston Celtics came to Detroit. The Celtics held the Pistons to just 37 points in the first half, their lowest scoring half of the season. Detroit did not improve much offensively in the second half, scoring just 44 points. The Celtics would win 91-81 in the Pistons lowest scoring game of the season.

Three Pistons’ starters were held to single digits in scoring that game, as Jackson was held to just two points, Drummond was kept to just six in that game and Johnson scored five points, failing to reach double digits in points for the seventh time in eight games.

Harris has proven to be the Pistons most reliable scorer. He averaged 18 points per game over the losing streak and is averaging 18.8 points per game on the season.

The Pistons struggles can be tied to their offensive woes. They were held to just over 94 points per game over the stretch. That is the lowest of any team in the NBA for the month of December. They are also dead last in field-goal percentage, shooting just 40.8 percent on the floor, and have shot 32.6 percent from beyond the arc, which ranks 25th for the month. They also rank 27th in free-throw percentage, shooting 68.6 percent from the stripe.

If the Pistons want to turn it around in their next stint of games, they will have to step up their game offensively.

Although the Pistons are struggling offensively, the point differential was only minus four without the games against the Wizards and Celtics. For most of the losing streak, the Pistons were only a couple possessions out of each game.

They also played some of the top defenses in the NBA. The Celtics and the Spurs are the top two defenses in the league in fewest points allowed per game. The Bucks defense ranks the 11th best in the NBA in fewest points allowed per game.

Coach Stan Van Gundy is not concerned with the Pistons’ play over the losing streak.

“You’re talking the difference of a couple of possessions in each of those games. We’re five possessions from having three wins in a row.” Van Gundy said to NBA.com’s Keith Langlois after last Wednesday’s loss to the Bucks. “We were great when we came back and beat Minnesota and Oklahoma City but we’re awful when we came back from down 13 in the fourth quarter and got the game tied in Milwaukee and couldn’t finish it?”

Van Gundy has full confidence his team will be alright going forward in the long season. They will look to snap their six-game losing streak at home Tuesday night as they take on the 14-12 Denver Nuggets.