Lack of execution haunts Pistons in loss to Jazz

AUBURN HILLS — The Detroit Pistons still aren’t a good enough team to win games without doing all of the little things.

That’s why Stan Van Gundy was so upset with his team after Sunday’s 97-96 loss to the Utah Jazz.

"When you get good looks and you don’t make the shots, that’s OK; that happens," he said. "But we missed more than 20 shots in the paint. We didn’t execute plays out of timeouts. We screwed up defensive assignments, and we didn’t make free throws. That’s inexcusable."

Van Gundy was actually being generous to his players, who missed 29 of their 52 shots inside the paint. For the season, the Pistons are shooting only 47.5 percent inside, while their opponents are hitting at a 54.9 percent clip.

"That’s becoming a problem, and we’re going to have to look at it," Van Gundy said. "You can’t give that many points away inside."

It isn’t hard to find the culprits. Andre Drummond is shooting 45.3 percent from the floor, even though he’s taking most of his attempts from inside five feet, and Josh Smith is hitting on just 37.1 percent on his two-point attempts. Both players are under 50 percent from the free-throw line, another place where the Pistons are struggling.

"To win games, you have to be able to make free throws," said Brandon Jennings, who has missed only three times from the line all season. "I don’t know why we are having trouble with that. Maybe it is a focus issue, or maybe we just need to shoot more of them in practice. Something has to change."

Smith is shooting more than any Piston, averaging more than 16 attempts per game, but hasn’t been able to get on a significant hot streak. He’s cut down on his 3-pointers, taking only nine and missing all of them, but hasn’t been able to consistently make anything from inside or mid-range, either.

Both he and Van Gundy have talked about his struggles and trying to work through them, and Smith does give Detroit more than just points. He went 6-for-14 against the Jazz, but had nine rebounds, four assists and a block in 30 minutes while turning the ball over just once.

In the second half, however, Smith went 2-for-6, including three misses as the Pistons let the game slip away in the fourth quarter.

"We got a little too stagnant out there," Smith said. "We have to remember what we did to get ourselves in position to win these games and keep doing it."

Despite the execution problems, the Pistons still should have won the game. They led 89-80 with eight minutes to play but missed their next six shots, letting the Jazz back into the game.

At that point, Gordon Hayward took over, scoring 11 points in the final five minutes.

"He made some tough shots, but a couple times, we broke down and didn’t do what we were supposed to do," Van Gundy said. "You can’t win like that."