The Detroit Pistons know they are under pressure to perform well against the Los Angeles Lakers after their playoff push was jolted by two nightmare defeats.
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With the Pistons set to honour their legendary 1989 championship-winning 'Bad Boys' squad when the Lakers come to town, it seems a good time to trot out some wisdom from the coach of that Pistons team, Chuck Daly.
"A pessimist," he would say, "is an optimist with experience."
That's another way of saying that when you think you have the NBA figured out, think again.
The Pistons left home on Sunday riding high, winners of five straight games and 12 of their last 14. They'd had the NBA's No 1 offense and the No 1 three-point shooting performance since February 1.
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And then, with two road games against the teams directly behind them and the chance to solidify their standing as the No 6 seed ... crash, boom, splat.
The Pistons scored 75 points - a season-low by 10 points - in Monday night's 28-point loss at Brooklyn and lowered the bar by another point in Wednesday's 34-point loss at Miami, where the Pistons scored eight points in the third quarter and 25 in the second half.
Miami opened the second half on a 21-0 run and the first Pistons basket took more than nine minutes coming. "If this didn't wake us up," Dwane Casey said, "nothing will."
The only good news was that Brooklyn lost at Oklahoma City - the first of seven daunting road games in a row for the Nets - while Orlando, on Miami's heels in the No 9 spot, lost at Washington. But that was little solace, especially when an already nightmarish evening grew even grimmer as Reggie Jackson rolled his right ankle - the one that cost him nearly half of last season with torn ligaments - midway through the fourth quarter after stepping on Zaza Pachulia's foot.
After staggering toward the bench, Jackson collapsed, then a minute later went to the locker room with an exaggerated limp. "It just hurt," he said 40 minutes later in the locker room, the foot plunged in an ice bath. "I'll be good. I'm not worried about it." And Casey said, "I think Reggie's OK," while Andre Drummond predicted he'd be back for Friday's game with the Lakers.
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But Jackson limped badly, right arm on the shoulder of a team therapist who guided his path, as he headed toward the shower.
The Pistons talked after their loss at Brooklyn about a need to start games with more assertiveness. They came back from 16 and 21 down to beat Minnesota and Chicago last week, but they played with fire against teams fighting for their playoff lives this week and got burned.
"We've got to wake up," said Drummond after fouling out with five points and nine rebounds. "We've got to play through it."
"We've got to come out with a better sense of urgency," Wayne Ellington said. "There's a lot at stake right now. We've got to understand that, every game. And Friday's a big one for us. It's all about how we bounce back."
Both the Nets and Heat played zone defense to great effect against the Pistons. Whether it was the zone that caused the Pistons to become passive or the zones worked so effectively because the Pistons failed to attack them aggressively depends on perspective.
"You can throw all the X and O's out the window," Casey said. "There's nothing they did we haven't seen. They just spanked us. Until we understand the level you have to play at when you're the hunted, it's a different level."
In what ways do the Pistons need to attack the zone differently?
"Play basketball. Just play, honestly," Jackson said. "You slow down and they win, so just play ball. They run a zone and we've been playing too slow. Simple as that."
"The zone has bothered us. Clearly," Ellington said. "It's something that we've got to be better at as a team. We've got to recognise that and we've got to attack it. We let it put us on our heels a little bit. We're not as aggressive when we see that zone. We're capable. We've got to continue to play with confidence and attack it. The one way you beat that thing is attack it."
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Casey was visibly frustrated but ultimately not discouraged. Six weeks ago the Pistons were seven games under .500 and now they're 34-33 and in control of their fate.
Friday night's games
- Los Angeles Lakers @ Detroit Pistons, 11pm, live on Sky Sports Arena
- Sacramento Kings @ Philadelphia 76ers, 11pm
- Charlotte Hornets @ Washington Wizards, 11pm
- Milwaukee Bucks @ Miami Heat, 12am
- Phoenix Suns @ Houston Rockets, 12am
- Portland Trail Blazers @ New Orleans Pelicans, 12am
- New York Knicks @ San Antonio Spurs, 12:30am
- Chicago Bulls @ Los Angeles Clippers, 2:30am
"Nobody's let go of the rope," he said. "We've run into two hot teams playing at a level that we've got to get to. And we've been playing there. That's why I know it's in us to do that. When our backs were against the wall, we played that way. Now, have a little success, and we kind of exhaled. You can't do that this time of year no matter who you're playing."