Although the team directly in front of them has been sliding, the Detroit Pistons haven’t been able to make significant headway in their pursuit of the final Eastern Conference playoff spot.
They’re hoping to turn things around in a matchup with one of the West’s worst road teams.
In a meeting featuring two of the league’s top young centers in DeMarcus Cousins and Andre Drummond, the Pistons will try to avoid a fourth straight loss and 11th in 13 games Tuesday night against the Sacramento Kings.
Detroit (24-39) was six games behind Atlanta in early February before the Hawks dropped 14 of 15 to fall into eighth place in the East heading into Monday’s action. But the ninth-place Pistons have only been able to slice roughly half off that deficit thanks to a 2-10 stretch of their own.
They’ve struggled defensively during that time, giving up an average of 110.0 points – 6.2 above their season mark – on 48.1 percent shooting over the last 10 games. They’re 6-33 when giving up more than 100 points.
Though its imposing frontcourt finished with a combined 68 points and 47 rebounds Sunday, Detroit allowed 69 points over the second and third quarters en route to a 118-111 loss at Boston.
”I think that our effort level needs to be a little bit harder,” said guard Will Bynum, who had 18 points. ”I think maybe we need to play with a sense of urgency. We are trying to make the playoffs.”
The Pistons may be able to tighten things up against a Sacramento team that hasn’t reached 90 points in consecutive losses since opening a seven-game trip with a 116-102 victory in Milwaukee on Wednesday.
Cousins finished with 28 points and 20 rebounds Sunday, but the Kings (22-41) allowed Brooklyn to shoot 53.2 percent from the field and 12 of 25 from 3-point range in a 104-89 loss.
They also matched a season-low with 11 assists and committed a season-high 25 turnovers while falling to 9-22 away from home.
”Once again we continue to beat ourselves on the road," coach Michael Malone said. "What I see now on both ends of the floor is a disease of `me’. We’re becoming a selfish basketball team.”
Cousins has averaged 23.4 points and 13.2 rebounds in five games since serving a one-game suspension Feb. 28 for throwing a punch at Houston’s Patrick Beverley. He’s totaled 47 points and 29 boards in his last two trips to Detroit, and had 26 points and 13 rebounds in a 97-90 home loss to the Pistons on Nov. 15.
While Cousins ranks fourth in the NBA with 38 double-doubles, Drummond is second only to Minnesota’s Kevin Love (52) with 45. It’s the most double-doubles for a Detroit player since Isiah Thomas had 47 in 1985-86.
Drummond had 15 points and 18 boards in November at Sacramento and put up 18 and 22 on Sunday.
Teammate Josh Smith contributed 28 points while making 12 of 24 shots in Boston after scoring 16.0 per game on 30.3 percent shooting over his previous four. Dating to his time in Atlanta, he’s averaged 21.5 points and shot 55.4 percent in his last four games against the Kings.
The Pistons have won nine of 11 meetings, including the last three in Detroit.