The Detroit Pistons suffered their eight loss in 10 games on Tuesday with a 121-116 defeat at the hands of the Indiana Pacers, and they continue to sound like a team in the middle of a crisis. Coach Stan Van Gundy has already acknowledged that their season is "in jeopardy," and the players-only meeting held almost three weeks ago did not have much of an effect.
Much of the discussion about the Pistons' slide has focused on their offense -- when Reggie Jackson returned to the lineup on Dec. 2, it changed the way the team functioned. Before Jackson came back, though, Detroit was fifth in the league in defensive rating, allowing just 101.1 points per 100 possessions. Since then, it has been 18th in the league, giving up 107.8 points per 100 possessions.
The Pistons have essentially fallen apart on both ends, and the defense was the much bigger issue in the loss to the Pacers. Indiana shot 58.1 percent, going 9-for-16 from 3-point range and 26-for-30 from the free throw line. Van Gundy and Jackson were both blunt in assessing the damage that was done, via the Detroit Free Press' Vince Ellis:
"I thought our closeouts were bad; we just left people open," Van Gundy said. "It's like we hope people are gonna miss early on. We wait to see if we're gonna have to make the effort to closeout."
Van Gundy said he is again toying with the idea of changing the starting lineup and looking at defensive schemes.
"I don't know," Van Gundy said. "We gotta go back and look and decide - not only who to play, but what we need to do, what we need to work on. We just haven't been able to stop anybody."
Jackson said that schemes aren't the issue - the players are the issue.
"Hell, naw; y'all watching," Jackson said when asked if the defensive struggles were schematic.
"It's beyond schematic. People just walk into the paint. People are literally shooting warmup shots that's like drill work. It's a joke. It's something that we gotta do. Coach can't do nothing about it. It don't matter if he has a scheme or not or not a scheme. If we were to play pick-up (basketball), I would hope so somebody would kick us out the gym."
Something is deeply wrong here. The Pistons have the talent to be a top-four team in the Eastern Conference, and they started the season 11-10 without Jackson, their No. 1 playmaker. Everybody involved knows they're falling woefully short of expectations now, and it's going to take a collective effort -- and maybe even a trade -- to get them out of this rut.