Pistons hungry to regain momentum in playoff push
The Detroit Pistons didn't show enough hunger in their last game and it cost them. Now, head coach Dwane Casey wants to see his players restore an "empty stomach" mentality when they face the rebuilding Cavaliers in Cleveland on Saturday.
The Pistons had won seven of their previous eight games before falling in San Antonio 105-93 on Wednesday. The Spurs had lost seven of their past eight games but Detroit failed to match their intensity.
"They out-rebounded us," Casey said. "They beat us in every area there was. If we're serious about doing something in the playoffs, getting into the playoffs, that's the level we've got to play at. (Wednesday) should teach us a hard lesson."
The Pistons scored 105 points or more during each game of their hot streak but shot just 36 percent from the field and attempted only seven free throws against the Spurs.
"They played desperate and I don't think we did the entire game," Casey said. "We played in spurts, but we didn't play desperate as long and as much as they did."
Despite their troubles, the Pistons were down only two points with five minutes remaining. San Antonio outscored them 15-5 the rest of the way.
"It's good, but we've got to put together a full game," reserve swingman Luke Kennard said to the team's website about the Pistons' fourth-quarter rally. "If we put together a better end of the first (quarter) through the second, we could've won that game. A lot of that's on us. We've got to be ready as soon as we get in the game and that's on me, too. I was kind of sluggish to start when I came in and took a couple of tough shots. We've got to be locked in physically and mentally when we come in."
The Cavaliers have won four of their past six games, coinciding with the return of power forward Kevin Love from foot surgery. Love has averaged 23 points and 10.8 rebounds over the past four games, including 26 points in 28 minutes in New York on Thursday. The Cavaliers outscored the Knicks 21-5 in the last four minutes to claim a 125-118 victory.
"We've had a lot of fun playing the game," Love told the team's website. "We're enjoying being out there."
Improved play from rookie point guard Collin Sexton also has made the Cavaliers more dangerous. He is averaging 18.8 points, 3.2 assists and just 1.8 turnovers in February. Sexton had 22 points, three assists and no turnovers in 32 minutes at Madison Square Garden.
"He really played under control, not only in his attack, but when the shot was there he took it and when he had the driving opportunities, he made the most of it. He really played a composed game," head coach Larry Drew said. "I thought he did a really good job recognizing certain situations where we had mismatches. He didn't try to do too much. He made the simple play and the right plays."
Detroit collected a pair of home wins against Cleveland during the first 15 games of the season. The Central Division foes will play once more in Cleveland on March 18.
Updated March 1, 2019