After losing Wednesday, 94-83, for the third time in four tries to the lowly Philadelphia 76ers, the Detroit Pistons reminded us yet again how much progress they need to make. And after listening to their head coach and one of their veterans after the game, that progress must start before the ball is even tipped. From Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press:
"It wasn't the effort," a fuming Van Gundy said just moments after letting his team hear about it. "It was a complete lack of focus in getting ready to play a game and knowing who your opponent is and taking what you go through in the morning and preparing yourself to play."
From his first comments to reporters, you gleaned Van Gundy went over a game plan that would use the 76ers' gambling tendencies against them. Drive it into the paint and find perimeter shooters.
"We knew if we drove in the paint everybody would come to block and there would be people open and we didn't do a damn thing about it," Van Gundy said. "I didn't see any focus whatsoever in being strong with the ball. Saw no focus whatsoever in trying to find open people."
Anthony Tolliver was even more harsh. From David Mayo of MLive.com:
"Immaturity," Tolliver said. "That's the only thing that allows you to do that."
[...] "Mature, veteran teams, 90 percent of the time, will know that you have to jump on teams like this early, not let them get confidence going, and ride it out from there," Tolliver said. "But we, just having so many young guys, I feel like they feel like we're more talented than some of these teams and say we can just turn it on when we want and beat them.
"Everybody's in this league for a reason. Everybody's capable of having a big night and capable of leading a team to a win. We've done that multiple times this year, as a team, where we don't come out with the intensity we need to, and match their energy, and it cost us tonight."
The Sixers, meanwhile, credited head coach Brett Brown for urging them to start strong, pointing out before the game that while Philly has the 26th ranked defense in terms of points per possession in the first quarter, they have the league's best in the second half. The message stuck. From Derek Bodner of Liberty Ballers:
"When you have facts that you can use as ammunition, as motivation [it helps]," Sixers head coach Brett Brown said after the game. "We feel like if we can just zoom in and start games well, who knows what can happen. I thought defensively we locked in and started the game well."
Playing against the Detroit Pistons certainly helped, as the Pistons have the 5th worst offense in the league over the past 10 games. Still, for a team that has so consistently struggled defensively to start games the Sixers performance last night (92.3 defensive rating in the first quarter and 79.7 in the first half) was a good sign.
"Coach is like 'Bring that second half energy to the first half', and I thought that was huge for us getting the lead," Starting point guard Ish Smith said after the game. "We just kind of played with it the whole game."
One coach's message was received, and the other's wasn't.
As a team, the Pistons shot just 33 percent from the field [box score], and without Greg Monroe for the second straight game, they were largely ineffective in the paint, getting outscored 40 to 20 with Nerlens Noel blocking three shots and making his presence felt on many others. Even the shooters you might expect to make open shots struggled mightily: Jodie Meeks shot just 2 for 12, and Spencer Dinwiddie 2 for 11.
Only two players cracked double-digits, led by Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored a game-high 20 on 7-of-16 shooting. On the heels of a 20-20 effort in the previous game, Reggie Jackson recorded his first career triple-double, but he needed a tip-in dunk with less than 20 seconds left in the game to reach 11 points on 17 shots. He also finished with 11 rebounds and 10 assists.
There's just 14 games left. I'm not sure who's more excited about that fact: Detroit's fans or players.