The Detroit Pistons were riding high last week following a huge win against the powerhouse Toronto Raptors at Little Caesars Arena. And now, that air of confidence has all but evaporated following a disappointing 1-4 road swing that caused major damage to their playoff chances.
The latest setback was last night’s loss to the Denver Nuggets at Pepsi Center, in which they were doomed by a horrid first quarter yet were able to rally back to nearly tie the score late in the fourth quarter, only to fall short.
“We can’t start — I can’t start the game like I did, missing eight shots right at the rim, tip-in after tip-in,” Blake Griffin said. “We have to come out with a little more fire, especially on the road.”
“We talk about wanting to be a playoff team and it makes me even more mad and upset that we played the way we should play in the second half,” coach Dwane Casey said. “We executed well in the second half — but way too late. Against good teams out here in the west, you can’t ease your way in and play every third possession — and that’s what we did tonight.”
Griffin, who has emerged as Detroit’s leader and has been their most consistent player all year, led them with 29 points and tied a season high with 15 rebounds. Reggie Jackson added 17 points, while Andre Drummond scored 13 points with 18 rebounds before fouling out near the final buzzer.
Griffin tried to look at the positives as he fought back disappointment at missing the game-tying shot in his post-game comments.
“I was proud of the way we fought back,” he said. “I felt awful because I got a good look and let us down to take us to overtime. “I’m not happy with the outcome or how we played the first quarter, but I liked our fight and if we play like that the rest of the season, we’ll be all right.”
The Pistons will need to do exactly that, because their schedule to close out the season will feature matchups against playoff teams (Portland, twice against Indiana, and Oklahoma City), but will start with a pivotal game on Thursday night against the Orlando Magic, who are breathing down their necks in the standings.