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Pistons’ Hot Start Masks Serious Problems Off Bench

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AUBURN HILLS — For most teams, especially one as troubled as the Detroit Pistons, a 3-1 start wouldn’t be a cause for concern.

Those teams aren’t coached by Stan Van Gundy.

After Tuesday’s 94-82 loss to the Indiana Pacers, Van Gundy is ready to make major changes.

“I know we’ve only played four games, but we are going to have to sit down and completely rethink our bench,” Van Gundy said. “They are just not giving us what we need.”

The bench has been struggling to score since Jodie Meeks broke his foot, but they fell completely apart against the Pacers. Detroit led 30-24 at the end of the first quarter, and Van Gundy followed his usual procedure of starting the second period with his second unit on the floor – Aron Baynes, Anthony Tolliver, Stanley Johnson, Reggie Bullock and Steve Blake.

Less than five minutes later, the Pacers had put up 20 straight points and Van Gundy was running his starters back to the scorer’s table.

“That 20-0 run was the whole game right there,” he said. “Our starters played pretty well in the first quarter, although our defense wasn’t great, but we just gave the game away in that five-minute stretch. I got them out of the game as quickly as I could, and if you look at the minutes played, you’ll see that I didn’t go back to some of them.”

Indeed, Blake, Baynes and Bullock never got off the bench in the second half, leaving them with some ugly final numbers. Blake finished with a minus-20 in seven minutes, Baynes had a minus-20 in five minutes and Bullock, who threw up airballs on his only two shots, was a minus-18 in just four.

Because of the bench failure, Andre Drummond played the entire second half and 43 minutes in the game. With the extended minutes, he put up 25 points and 29 rebounds, including 11 on the offensive glass. It was his sixth career Moses Malone triple-double (points, offensive rebounds and defensive rebounds), which ties him for the career lead among active players with Tyson Chandler. The 33-year-old Chandler has played 924 career games, while the 22-year-old Drummond has played 227.

Through four games, Drummond is averaging 20.3 points and 19.5 rebounds.

“We only had one guy play well tonight,” Van Gundy said. “Andre was it, but that was a very, very impressive game.”

It wasn’t a winning game, though, which is why the often ebullient Drummond sat silent in the bustling postgame locker room, staring at the floor with a towel over his head.

“He knows he had a great game,” Stanley Jackson said. “He wanted a win.”

It’s hard to win any game when your bench gets outscored 43-2, with third-string point guard Spencer Dinwiddie finally getting them on the board in the fourth quarter. The normal second-unit players went a combined 0-for-11 in 40 minutes, pulled down four rebounds and dished out three assists with four turnovers.

“Obviously, we have to fix something,” Van Gundy said. “We either have to find that group a way to score or we’re going to have to change the rotation.”

Van Gundy was asked if that would mean staggering rest of his starters to avoid keeping all five reserves from being on the floor alone.

“That’s what we would have to do,” he said. “I don’t want to do that, because the starters playing together are what is getting us leads to begin with, but we’ve got to do something.”

With Meeks expected to be out until the All-Star break and Brandon Jennings still sidelined indefinitely, there’s no obvious scorer in sight. The starting lineup hasn’t been on fire either, so Van Gundy can’t just make a one-for-one switch between units.

“I don’t know the answer right now,” he said.

“But figuring that out is my job.”

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