NBA

Pistons look for sustained effort vs. Raptors

Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson drive Detroit Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy crazy.

The wild swings in productivity from two of his top players have made this a maddening season for Van Gundy. The outcome of the Pistons' home game against Toronto on Friday night will likely be tied to the performances of the enigmatic duo.

Their output over the last four games epitomizes the lack of consistency from Drummond, the team's center and closest thing it has to a franchise player, and Jackson, its floor leader.

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Drummond averaged 22 points and 15.5 rebounds in victories over Cleveland and New York last week, and Jackson averaged 20 points and 6.5 assists in those games.

The Pistons (33-35) have been blown out by Cleveland and Utah this week, in large part because of the ineffectiveness of Drummond and Jackson. They both scored a combined 14 points in the lopsided losses and got benched early in the second half.

Jackson played just 2:35 after halftime in the 97-83 loss to the Jazz on Wednesday.

"I went away from Reggie early in the second half because he was absolutely exhausted 2 1/2 minutes in," Van Gundy said. "Dead tired, couldn't catch his breath. That's why I took him out so soon."

Drummond, the league's second-leading rebounder, didn't secure any rebounds during his seven-minute stint in the second half.

"(Backup center Aron) Baynes just played a lot better. Andre didn't have it," Van Gundy said. "He didn't bring us anything. I didn't see anything. I didn't see any energy."

Even when Drummond and Jackson have played well, the Pistons have often dug early holes for themselves. They have trailed after the first quarter in nine of 11 games since the All-Star break.

"We've had six guys start since the All-Star break, four of them have started every game and we've gotten off to one good start. One," Van Gundy said. "Why are you a step-and-a-half slow at the start of every game? I don't know the answer to that."

The Pistons stunned the Raptors in their last meeting on Feb. 12 with an improbable rally. Down 16 after three quarters, the Pistons staged their biggest fourth-quarter comeback since the franchise moved to the Detroit area for the 1957-58 season. Shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored five points in the final minute to finish off the 102-101 win.

Toronto (39-29) took a pounding on its home floor Thursday, as Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder overwhelmed the Raptors 123-102. The Thunder led by 27 after three quarters.

The Raptors have lost five of their last eight as they struggle to find continuity without point guard Kyle Lowry, who will miss his 12th straight game on Friday with a wrist injury.

Small forward DeMarre Carroll returned to the lineup on Thursday after sitting out the previous two games with an ankle injury. He was limited to two points and three rebounds in 15 minutes.

"He gives us our wing defender, our 3-point shooter," Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. "Hopefully, getting him back in rhythm (as he was) before he went down with the ankle."

Casey would also like to expand the role of forward P.J. Tucker, who was acquired from Phoenix just before the trade deadline. Tucker played 18 minutes off the bench against the Thunder, contributing six points and three rebounds.

"He's going to be important for us," Casey told the Toronto Sun. "His physicality, his experience, we have to make sure we keep his minutes up."