Cold-shooting Pistons to play at Rockets

HOUSTON — To hear the Detroit Pistons discuss the primary root of their ongoing offensive struggles is to recount many of the things their upcoming opponent outlined as a fundamental shortcoming before things suddenly took a turn for the better over the past couple of weeks.

Before the Houston Rockets, who will host the Pistons on Wednesday at Toyota Center in the first game of a home-and-home between the teams that concludes on Friday at Little Caesars Arena, climbed back over .500 courtesy of a four-game winning streak, they were last in the NBA in field goal percentage. Their recent string of success has enabled the Rockets to crawl out of that basement, with Houston averaging 115.8 points per contest during its current run.

Detroit (8-6) has replaced the Rockets at the bottom of the rankings, shooting just 43 percent on the season. The Pistons have mostly relied on their defense to shoulder the load, entering Tuesday ninth in defensive rating at 106.3 points allowed per 100 possessions. But on Monday, it was their offense that set a positive tone in a 113-102 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers.

“We started the game – started,” Pistons coach Dwane Casey said with emphasis. “I was on the team about the starts and we scored 38 points in the first quarter.”

Still, even with that robust opening period, the Pistons finished just 13 of 38 on 3-pointers and were left lamenting several missed opportunities to convert on uncontested looks. When the Rockets were mired in a stretch of four consecutive sub-100-point games, they lauded the quality of their shots while decrying how often they missed. Recently, those shots have fallen.

“We executed,” Pistons guard Langston Galloway said. “We had a lot of great looks, myself included. Just got to knock them down. Keep shooting and knock them down.”

Added Casey: “I thought our spacing was good. We still had some wide-open 3s that we didn’t make, and I thought we did a better job of getting into those positions to create those, and at some point, they’re going to fall.”

Once the Rockets (8-7) intensified their defensive effort, starting with a spirited halftime discussion at Brooklyn on Nov. 2, their offense slowly came around. Houston is shooting 38.8 percent (69 for 178) on 3-points during its winning streak and is again launching 3s at a fevered pace. The Rockets are second in both 3s made (14.3) and attempted (42.5) per game, and have steadily created distance from their sluggish shooting start.

There is room for improvement, namely from guard Eric Gordon, who’s shooting 24.8 percent on 3s, but the confidence has returned. The Rockets’ 123.5 offensive rating during their streak tops the NBA.

“You just have faith in our guys,” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said. “And I know that our guys are professional, and they’re good. And you worry about it and you pull your hair out, but in the end, they’re going to come back to who they are. And who they are is pretty good.”