AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — Stan Van Gundy’s frustration with Andre Drummond‘s inability to consistently make free throws has hovered over both men into the playoffs. After sitting Drummond for the final 6:02 of Friday night’s Game 3 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers, Van Gundy admitted that the young big man’s inability to make free throws is a “problem.”
When asked after Saturday’s film session why he didn’t reinsert Drummond into the game with less than two minutes to play when intentionally fouling a player is more punitive, the Detroit Pistons‘ coach didn’t hesitate.
“You also can’t throw him the ball,” the veteran coach said. “Unless you throw a lob, you can’t throw him the ball. And so you think about keeping him in on the offensive boards, but everything’s going to have to be a tip-in. Because [Cavs coach] Ty [Lue] was pissed off one time in Game 2 when Andre got a rebound and they didn’t tie him up. So that’s just something we’re going to have to deal with. But he’s 5-for-22 [from the foul line] in the last two games, so I’m not riding that out. I’m just not.
“I’m just not riding that out. Clearly, its the way I played the last part of the year, too. It’s just — even to bring him back in the last two minutes, your options are limited. It’s a problem. It really is.”
Aside from Drummond’s struggles at the foul line, Van Gundy was also very upset that the Pistons were out-rebounded by 14 on Friday and pointed out that Cavs big man Tristan Thompson had eight offensive rebounds, while discussing Drummond’s performance.
Drummond tried to stay positive in a postgame media session, but he has been rendered a non-factor late in games throughout the series because Van Gundy doesn’t want to leave him on the floor and run the risk of the Cavs continually sending him to the line.
Van Gundy is hopeful his team will salvage at least a game of the series and avoid a sweep in Game 4 on Sunday night.
“I just told them that tomorrow’s going to be a real test of their mental toughness,” Van Gundy said of the message he gave to his team. “It’s tough at 0-3 and when you get into the game it will be tough. Cleveland makes a run; are you going to stay the course and everything else? I have not been in this situation. I’ve been on the other side of it. And I’ve seen teams that give a good effort but then you make a run on them, you get them down a little and they just sort of go away because there’s not a great belief that they can still win the series and they let it go. So that’s what we’re fighting against.
“Our team was really, really ready to play last night and I thought played hard and were mentally focused and into the game and the whole thing. And to get back to that level again of mental preparation and focus and bringing that energy will be a challenge [Sunday] night, but I also put it to them in a very positive way. And I’ve said this several times: This has been a very, very resilient team all year. And I’ve got great faith that they will meet the challenge and come and play really, really hard [Sunday]. They’ve done a good job — this season has been a big step forward for them and for our organization. And getting a win [Sunday] would be another big step forward for us, so we have a lot to play for.”