The Detroit Pistons squandered an eight-point, fourth-quarter lead on Friday. But what truly bothered coach Dwane Casey was how his team began its game against the Sacramento Kings.
The Pistons had to rally from an early 17-point deficit in the 110-107 loss.
"I take responsibility for that, for the guys not being prepared, ready to come out and play because it's the league," he said. "Everybody's going to come in and try to put their foot on our throat."
Casey wants to see his team apply the pressure when it hosts the New York Knicks on Sunday.
Detroit will be playing its final home game prior to the All-Star break. The Pistons have a road game against Toronto in Tampa Bay on Tuesday before heading to New York for a rematch with the Knicks on Thursday.
Along with the poor start, the biggest issues that led to the Pistons' demise on Friday were rebounding and free throw shooting. Sacramento turned 14 offensive rebounds into 19 second-chance points. Detroit also missed 11 free throws, including a pair by Josh Jackson in the closing seconds that could have tied the game.
"We've got to do better on the defensive glass," forward Jerami Grant said. "We've got to box out."
Grant returned to the lineup with renewed energy after getting rested in Detroit's previous outing. He scored 30 points and grabbed seven rebounds.
Both of the team's healthy point guards also played well. Dennis Smith Jr. had 17 points and six assists, and backup Saben Lee contributed eight points and four rebounds. The team's top floor leader, Delon Wright, is sidelined until the break with a groin injury.
"I thought Dennis did a heck of a job of running the show, getting into the paint and causing problems," Casey said. "Between those two, we've had good play out of our point guards."
This will be the first of three meetings with the Knicks. New York will be playing the second game of a back-to-back. It edged Indiana 110-107 on Saturday for its sixth victory in eight games.
Derrick Rose will be playing against the team that dealt him earlier this month. Rose had 17 points, 11 assists and four steals against the Pacers.
Rose has replaced injured Elfrid Payton in the lineup. His backcourt partner, RJ Barrett, supplied 24 points and seven rebounds as the Knicks reached the .500 mark.
They're currently tied for fourth place in the Eastern Conference standings.
"It means a lot for us," Barrett said. "We're a hard-working group and we want to win. That's what we're here for. It definitely feels great. I've been a winner all my life, so this feels good."
The Knicks lost backup big man Taj Gibson to a sprained ankle, forcing starting center Nerlens Noel to play 41 minutes.
"We didn't start the game well. It was funky," coach Tom Thibodeau said. "We had to work our way through it. The most important thing was just finding a way to win in the end. We had a lot of guys step up and make big plays.
"We just scratched it out," he added. "We'll have a new challenge tomorrow and we've got to be ready for that one."
--Field Level Media