DETROIT — Just four games into the season, Detroit Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy wonders if he needs to make a lineup change.
Slow starts left the Pistons staring at 21-point deficits their last two outings. They were able to rally and defeat the New York Knicks in the first of those games but came up short against the Philadelphia 76ers at home on Monday.
Van Gundy hasn’t seen enough energy or focus from his first unit. He will try to avoid a repeat on Wednesday, when his club hosts the Minnesota Timberwolves.
“We have to figure that out, whether it’s those five guys, changing their mindset, or whether we have to change the lineup to get some guys in there who can be ready to go at the beginning of the game,” he said. “That was disappointing (Monday) at the start of the game. The whole thing was disappointing, but the start was disappointing in terms of the effort.”
The Sixers collected their first victory of the season, 97-86, at the Pistons’ expense.
If Van Gundy wants to shake things up, he could swap out Reggie Jackson at the point and insert Ish Smith. A more likely scenario would be to replace small forward Stanley Johnson with power forward Joe Leuer and slide Tobias Harris to small forward.
Harris agreed with Van Gundy that the starting five didn’t play hard enough in the opening quarter against Philadelphia.
“I think a lot of it has to do with the ball not going in the basket for us in the first quarter and things of that nature,” Harris said. “It’s something as a team that we have to build on and be able to become a defense-first team.
“Let our defense be a catalyst to our offense. Second game in a row we haven’t gotten off to a great start, something that we have to really focus on when we play next.”
The Pistons (2-2) have played well against the Timberwolves the past two seasons, sweeping the two-game series each time. Leuer averaged 20.5 points against Minnesota last season, including a career-best 24 points in a 116-108 victory on Feb. 3 at Detroit’s old home, The Palace of Auburn Hills.
The Timberwolves (2-1) have the disadvantage of playing the second end of a back-to-back. They headed to Detroit after an embarrassing 130-107 home loss to Indiana on Tuesday. The Pacers shot a franchise-record 66.7 percent from the floor.
“Sometimes it’s going your way, sometimes it’s not. You have to deal with everything,” Minnesota coach Tom Thibodeau said. “Sometimes you have the advantage in terms of days of rest, sometimes they do. But when the ball goes up, none of that matters.”
Minnesota might be without one of its top players. Swingman Jimmy Butler was a late scratch on Tuesday due to an upper-respiratory infection. His status for Wednesday was questionable. Shabazz Muhammad started in his place and scored 14 points.
“As I mentioned to our players, we have to have a toughness to win,” Thibodeau said. “When you’re short-handed, you can’t come out and just think you’re going to go out there and win without putting the work into it.”
The Timberwolves posted a three-point victory over Utah and a two-point win over Oklahoma City in their previous two outings.
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