AUBURN HILLS — The Detroit Pistons must have misread the NBA schedule.
After getting almost a week off for the All-Star break, they returned with one of their worst outings of the season, losing 97-68 to the Philadelphia 76ers. To make things worse, owner Tom Gores made a rare appearance to see the game.
“We were still on vacation,” said Tayshaun Prince.
When asked to elaborate, Prince took a trick out of Rasheed Wallace’s bag.
“We were still on vacation,” repeated Prince, the man whose “buffoonery” quote became the unofficial motto of last season. “We were still on vacation.”
No one was going to argue with him. The Pistons missed their first 17 outside jumpers, turned the ball over 23 times and were outscored 30-10 on the fast break.
“Everything was a problem tonight,” Damien Wilkins said. “We turned the ball over, we didn’t get back in transition and we didn’t make shots. That’s pretty much the whole game right there.”
The Pistons had been routed twice in Philadelphia already this season, losing 96-73 on Jan. 6 and 95-74 22 days later. Lawrence Frank knew what his team needed to do, but they weren’t able to follow the game plan.
“They averaged 21 points off our turnovers in the first two games, so we knew we had to limit them in that area,” he said. “I thought the key to this game was to make them play against our set half-court defense. Obviously, that didn’t happen.”
For one quarter, it looked like Greg Monroe and Rodney Stuckey might be able to keep the Pistons in the game by themselves. Monroe had 11 points in the first quarter and Stuckey added seven.
Jonas Jerebko had Detroit’s only other points – hitting a layup – but Detroit was only down 22-20 at the end of the period.
In the second, though, both teams went to their benches and it quickly got ugly. The Sixers scored the first 11 points of the quarter, and led 50-34 at the half.
“Their bench changed the game,” Frank said. “They’ve got one of the best benches in the game, and they scored 47 points tonight. It was Thaddeus Young hurting us in the first half, and it was Louis Williams in the second half.”
Any hopes of a Pistons comeback ended on the first possession of the second half, as Stuckey was called for a three-second violation while his teammates looked lost on offense.
Within three minutes, the Philadelphia lead was up to 22, and the Pistons didn’t even make it look good in garbage time.
The only drama in the fourth quarter was the condition of Sixers coach Doug Collins, who suddenly left the bench at the end of the third. With Michael Curry taking charge, Collins spent the fourth being examined in the Philadelphia locker room by Pistons team doctor Ben Paolucci.
“I’m OK,” Collins said after the game. “I just got a little dehydrated and it made me lightheaded. I’ve been fighting something, and I didn’t get enough sleep over the break, and it caught up with me. It’s nothing, though. Doc had me drink a couple bottles of water, and I’m fine.”
While he was recovering, his team was doing everything in its power to completely embarrass Detroit. About the only time they failed was when, on yet another fast break, Andre Iguodala threw a bounce pass between his own legs to Young. It looked like a lock for every highlight reel in the country, except that Young missed the wide-open dunk.
By that point, though, the Sixers were able to laugh off the mistake. The Pistons? Not so much.
The Pistons get back to action Wednesday night with the closest thing the NBA has to a bye – a home game against the pitiful Charlotte Bobcats. The Bobcats are 4-28, have only won two road games and lost by 17 when the teams met on Jan. 13 in Charlotte.