By: Will Burchfield
Not that Stan Van Gundy ranks these things or anything, but after the Pistons lost by 19 points to the Nuggets on Tuesday night in a careless, lethargic effort on their home floor --
"Oh, I'll rank it for you," Van Gundy cut in. "That's one of the worst ones I've ever had as a coach. I've coached 850-plus regular season games plus playoffs, that's one of the worst I've ever had."
It wasn't the lopsided score that grated on Van Gundy. Blowouts happen. It was the way the Pistons went through the motions from almost start to finish, they way in which they wilted so easily.
"It was extremely bad basketball, mindless basketball," said Van Gundy. "Forcing plays, no energy."
Of the Pistons' seven straight losses, this was clearly the worst. They fell behind 10 points in the first quarter and never really got back in the game. A nine-point deficit at halftime ballooned to 20 in the third quarter, and boos began trickling down in the fourth.
It hasn't been that kind of season for the Pistons, but it was that kind of night.
"We didn't bring it mentally or physically tonight. As a group -- I'm not singling out every individual -- we have a lot of guys feeling sorry for themselves, and that's not going to cut it. No one's going to feel sorry for you in this league," Van Gundy said.
Lest anyone think the coach was pinning the loss on his players, he pointed the finger squarely at himself.
"I deserve to be held accountable for that. There is no excuse for a professional basketball team to put out on the floor what we put out on the floor tonight, and as a coach you have to take that," Van Gundy said.
"I'm not running from the responsibility," he added. "I selected these players. I decide who plays, I decide what we run on offense, I decide how we play defense. That was an embarrassment tonight, and that's on me."
Van Gundy plugged Reggie Bullock in for Stanley Johnson in the starting five, but that wasn't the difference in the game. The quartet of Tobias Harris, Andre Drummond, Avery Bradley and Reggie Jackson went 7-31 from the floor and was largely responsible for the early deficit. (Bradley, for his part, was playing through an illness.)
While clarifying he wasn't pinning the outcome solely on those four, Van Gundy didn't hesitate in calling them out.
"I'm going to be really, really honest. We can make whatever changes we want (to the lineup), but you can't make changes to punish guys. The answer for us, in large part, is Tobias, Andre, Avery and Reggie -- our four best players, in my opinion -- have to play better," Van Gundy said.
"We're in holes too many nights with them, and we have to find an answer for that," he went on. "I'm not out here running them down, I'm just telling you they have to play better. If you want the money, if you want the credit when things go well, then you have to have some accountability."
While some fans might call for Van Gundy to bench Harris, Drummond, Bradley and Jackson to start the next game, that'd be missing the point in the long run. For the Pistons to be successful this season, they need those four on the floor and making a difference.
And they certainly need more spirit and attention to detail than they brought on Tuesday night.
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