OKLAHOMA CITY — A team looking to regain its footing and a team looking to finally find some momentum meet Friday night in Oklahoma City when the Thunder host the Detroit Pistons.
In a win Wednesday over defending champion Golden State, the Thunder’s big three of Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony finally strung together a nearly complete game.
“We can’t come this far tonight and then have slippage on Friday against Detroit,” Anthony said after the win over the Warriors. “We’ve got to learn from this. We’ve got to build on this. And hopefully we can move forward from this and start something.”
The Pistons are in the middle of a stretch of nine of 11 games on the road. Before they left for the initial three-game road swing, they were flying high, with five consecutive wins.
But the Pistons have lost three of their first four and the schedule is unforgiving over the next few weeks. Of the next 10 opponents, only Oklahoma City and Phoenix have losing records.
Tobias Harris’ shooting struggles have coincided with the Pistons’ problems. In the first 13 games, he shot 48 percent from the field, and even better from behind the 3-point line. But, in the past four games, Harris is hitting just 37.8 percent on field goals. His shooting from behind the arc has dipped to 33 percent recently.
“A little bit more attention (from other teams), but we haven’t played as a team the last four games the way we are capable of playing in terms of picking up our defensive intensity, getting out and running more and just moving the ball more offensively,” Harris told the Detroit Free Press. “It’s nothing that I’m worried about. I know when shots are there I’m going to take them, let it fly, but I think our defense has to pick up more to fuel the offense.”
The Pistons played those four games in six nights, but they have been off since the loss to Cleveland on Monday.
For the Thunder, Friday’s game is the first of a back-to-back that wraps up in Dallas on Saturday.
Oklahoma City coach Billy Donovan tinkered with his rotations in the win over the Warriors after the Thunder struggled to hold on to big early leads in losses to San Antonio and New Orleans.
He kept three starters on the floor to start the second half, going with George, Anthony and Steven Adams.
The switched helped the Thunder build off the lead they has amassed in the first quarter.
Donovan figures to continue to tinker with things as Oklahoma City looks for consistency with its made-over roster.
“We’ve got to play the same way,” Oklahoma City’s Raymond Felton said. “Hopefully this right here starts a run for us. We can’t go backwards from this.”