Punch from backcourt backups, but not much else for Pistons in loss at Toronto

TORONTO – Since we’re in the hockey capital of the world, home of the Maple Leafs and “Hockey Night in Canada” and the three stars of the game it spawned, let’s tip our toque to that tradition and sum up the Pistons forgettable, regrettable 116-94 preseason loss to the Raptors in three-stars-of-the-game fashion.

  • Star No. 3 – How about Stan Van Gundy’s backups at guard? Ish Smith scored 22 points and Langston Galloway 16 and through three quarters they had nearly half of the team’s points, 34 of 71. Smith was especially good, scoring 18 in the first half to allow the Pistons to be within 10. He added eight assists with only one turnover and shot 10 of 14.
  • Star No. 2 – Andre Drummond’s free-throw shooting. He made all six of his tries and is now 12 of 14 in the preseason.

    “I said on the bench at the end of the game, when he made the last two, I said, shoot, he’s going to be shooting technicals for us,” Van Gundy said. “It’s been great. So that was a real positive out of tonight.”

  • Star No. 1 – Did we mention that it was a preseason game? That it doesn’t really count?

    “It’s preseason,” Smith said, to remind us. “You know how it goes. That’s a really good team. We know the level we’ve got to play at now. I think the first three games, we played really well in spurts and now we know that we’ve got to do it for four quarters. But it’s preseason.”

    “It is only the preseason,” Van Gundy seconded. “The preseason’s about learning, improving and getting better. We got it handed to us tonight and we’ve got to take a look at it and try to fix things and get better. That’s what it’s all about. There’s nothing to be depressed about or upset about. You’ve just got to fix the problems. That’s what it’s all about right now.”

The problems started – but weren’t limited to – the defensive end. With Reggie Jackson playing a back to back – his first appearance came Monday, when he looked spry – and looking like a guy playing a back to back after missing the previous week and making his first appearance in an NBA game since last March, the offense scored on one of its first eight possessions.

But things Van Gundy drills and things the Pistons have always been good at preventing in his three-plus seasons in Detroit – transition baskets and open 3-pointers, particularly corner threes – came in bunches for Toronto.

“We were awful defensively,” Van Gundy said. “We weren’t very good offensively, either, but defensively we were awful. Started with we didn’t ever get back and get our defense set. We were really slow. We were behind the pace that they were setting all night and our rotations were terrible.”

Other than that …

Jackson clearly didn’t have the burst he exhibited in Monday’s win over Atlanta, when he had 14 points, six assists and no turnovers, in scoring six points with two assists while playing the first five minutes of every quarter.

He and Van Gundy attributed it not to any residual impact of last year’s knee injury and difficult recovery but to anticipated fatigue.

“I’m happy that I lasted throughout the game, especially with the minutes they told me I would play tonight,” Jackson said. “I’m happy my body held up and I continued to play through. Didn’t play necessarily well by any means, but I was happy I could withstand the minutes I was allotted tonight.”

Van Gundy is guarded – and very likely undecided, as he’s maintained – about who’ll start at point guard. He’s said he needs to see Jackson go through a week with no limitations, something that last week’s groin strain has prevented so far, before playing him in a regular-season game.

“We have to get on the court the guys who give us the best chance to win when we start next Wednesday,” he said. “That’s what we have to do. Both in terms of starters and rotation and all of that. I don’t have that figured out, but the basis for those decisions will be who gives us the best chance to win.”

There was no lineup Van Gundy could have concocted Tuesday that would have mattered, by all appearances. The Pistons were outrebounded by 11, allowed Toronto to shoot better than 50 percent and were outscored 39-15 from the 3-point line.

“We got dominated tonight and we’ve got to go back to work,” Van Gundy said. “We’ve got eight days and we’ve got to try to be better.”

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