Auburn Hills — Leave it to 11-time NBA champion coach Phil Jackson to sum up the current state of the Pistons: “It looks like some of their guys aren’t playing hard right now, too.”
Sure, Phil, pour salt on the Pistons’ wounds. It wasn’t enough that the Los Angeles Lakers had to bring Showtime to the Palace of Auburn Hills Wednesday night in a 103-90 win that wasn’t that close, he also felt the need to cast some barbs at the Pistons’ effort.
Oh, well, maybe he’s still bitter from losing the 2004 title to the Pistons.
Regardless, it’s tough to argue with his point when the Pistons fall behind by 30 points against the Golden State Warriors and then come home and proceed to trail the Lakers by nine after the first quarter, 14 at the half and 21 after three quarters.
“We’ve taken some steps back in the last couple games,” Tayshaun Prince admitted. “No way you should be down 30 to Golden State in the second quarter.
“The first game back from a West coast trip, you’ve got to get off to a better start, but once again, they’re a championship-caliber team and we know what they’re capable of doing so a lot of times if they jump out of the gate early on you, it’ll be hard to recover and that was the case.”
Unfortunately, that’s going to be the case more often than not this season. Against teams like the Lakers or the Celtics or the Heat, you can’t lose focus for even one moment.
“You have to have that competitive edge,” Kuester said. “Your margin of error on our team is small. So what has to happen is we’ve got to play every possession, every minute, every quarter, so that has to be consistent. That’ll give us a chance.
“So when our effort and focus is throughout the game and we don’t have slippage, then it allows us to stay in games and be very competitive. They’re a very good team. I’m very impressed with them.”
It certainly didn’t help matters that the Pistons lost Rip Hamilton at 7:01 of the first quarter. Hamilton had hoisted five shots in the first five minutes, making two. But when he was called for a foul while guarding Kobe Bryant, he didn’t take it well and was quickly tossed.
“We miss Rip. He’s a great player,” Kuester said. “Before you blink an eye, he’s gone and now we have to dig into our rotation.
“The thing that hurt us, they’re making shots. They’re coming down and feeling comfortable, making shots. We’re running offense and we’re getting good looks and we can’t make a shot.”
Prince said the Pistons’ slow start had nothing to do with coming back from a West coast trip and playing their fourth game in six nights.
“No excuses,” Prince said. “It had nothing to do with us coming back from the West coast trip and getting back late or nothing like that. Guys haven’t been playing a whole lot of minutes so guys’ bodies should be feeling good. My body’s feeling good. Obviously, they were the better team tonight.”
Although attendance was listed at 20,284, it had to be demoralizing for the Pistons to see the large number of purple-and-gold-clad fans, most of whom chanted, “MVP! MVP!” when Bryant was shooting free throws. Bryant finished with 33 points on 11-of-20 shooting.
“I’m not gonna lie to you, I was disappointed,” Kuester said. “But there were other fans here, too. This is our building. I was here in ’04 when we won a championship. I know the people of Detroit. They (the ones chanting) weren’t our fans.”
Even Bryant noticed the difference in the Palace atmosphere.
“It is different,” Bryant said. “Obviously the team isn’t as competitive as it was in 2004-05 and those years when it was really electric.”
Die-hard Pistons fans should probably accept that there won’t be that kind of electricity in the Palace for a while.
It looks like it’s going to be rough sledding this season — at least until the ownership situation is settled and the team can rebuild.