Pistons hanging on as they visit Nuggets
The pack is closing in on the Detroit Pistons, and they are feeling the heat.
The Pistons are trying to hold onto a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, but they have lost three of their past four games, all on the road. They came up empty over the weekend against Portland and Golden State, two of the Western Conference's top teams.
They will try to salvage the final game of the trip on Tuesday when they play Denver, which is battling the Warriors for the top seed in the West.
Detroit (37-36) outscored the Warriors 65-58 in the second half on Sunday, but it couldn't erase a poor second quarter, in which it was outscored 34-21.
Coach Dwane Casey said after the 121-114 loss that his team needs to sustain the momentum from the second half.
"We've got to carry it over to the next game," he said. "We've got to take that feeling, take that intensity and again put thought with it, put our basketball IQ with it, and take that to Denver. Not only for Denver but for the next eight or nine games, whatever it is, and leave it on the table."
Reserve point guard Ish Smith hasn't lost any confidence in his team's ability to reach the postseason, though it could fall to .500 with a loss to the Nuggets. The Pistons are in the seventh place in the East, trying to hold off Miami, Orlando and Charlotte.
"You have to remember that this was the same team that was (seven) games under .500, so for us to be in this position, I'm sure a lot of people think that we shouldn't be here," he said. "I don't get too high or too low; we just have to keep pushing and pressing and we will get to exactly where we need to."
The loss to the Trail Blazers was tougher to swallow, as Detroit led by six late in the game before dropping a 117-112 decision.
"We have to be ready to play against the top teams because in the playoffs there's no easy game, there's no easy round," reserve center Zaza Pachulia said.
"We have to learn from it, take advantage of these type of games to prepare ourselves for the playoffs. It's not given that we're going to make it."
The Nuggets (49-23) return home from a 3-1 road trip, but they were hammered by Indiana 124-88 on Sunday, an emphatic thud after a six-game winning streak.
The Pacers scored 62 points in each half and steadily pulled away.
"I felt this was an embarrassing effort on our part -- it's really inexcusable," coach Michael Malone said. "This time of the year, to go into anybody's building and be down by 41 points, there's nothing you can say about it. It was embarrassing effort by all of us."
Despite the winning streak, Malone saw signs of slippage prior to the team's visit to Indiana.
"I mean 3-1 overall from a results standpoint is a pretty good road trip, but to be honest, even in those wins, there was a lot left to be desired in terms of how we played," he said. "(Sunday), the inconsistent basketball reared its ugly head for 48 minutes."
--Field Level Media
Updated March 25, 2019