Back on Track
Pistons win third quarter, go on to road win at Toronto
The Raptors went on an 11-2 run in the third, but the Pistons still led by nine points at the end of the quarter after leading by seven at halftime. The Pistons outscored a total of 22-20 in the quarter with Tracy McGrady scoring 10, including a clutch triple in the last two seconds. They might have won the quarter by just two points, but they won nonetheless, proving to fans and critics that the team can find its way through adversity. When asked what they had done differently at the half, John Kuester said, “we made a little adjustment at halftime and guys responded,” jokingly adding, “I didn’t talk as much.” Kuester continued to test a new lineup with McGrady at the point and Rodney Stuckey at shooting guard with Greg Monroe, Tayshaun Prince and Chris Wilcox in the frontcourt, a combination that has proved to work well in its beginning stages. McGrady showed poise and leadership running the point, putting up a season-high 22 points. His best before Friday night was 21 points against Boston in December.
“I am focused every game, but when you have an arena that boos you, I think that you put a little more focus into it,” said McGrady on playing his former team. Stuckey followed with 19 and Charlie Villanueva came out strong off the bench, adding 16 points and eight rebounds. “The team did a good job of finding me. I just felt the rhythm in that first half,” said Villanueva on his performance, which served as a catalyst for the Pistons’ seven-point lead going into the half. “I think with (McGrady) handling the ball, it changes the offense a little bit and he’s a very unselfish player, but at the same time demands a lot of attention. Seems like every game he’s getting a lot more comfortable and it showed today.”
“I feel that I am a great decision-maker and I feel the ball should be in my hands, making plays for teammates,” McGrady said. “That is what I thrive off of, making my teammates better. There is no greater feeling than that. Having the ball has given confidence to me and my teammates.”
Monroe continued to surge with a performance that again defied his rookie status. He came into the game with four straight double-doubles to his name. While he missed out on making it five straight, going for 12 and seven boards, he was no doubt happy to walk away with a win.
“He’s as wonderful a kid to coach as you’ll find in this league,” Kuester said after riding Monroe for a team-high 38 minutes. “That’s been such a breath of fresh air to have somebody that wants to continually learn.”
Will Bynum made his first appearance since Jan. 4. Bynum didn’t see a great deal of PT- just 13 minutes- but added six points, a rebound and a key assist to the Pistons’ cause.
“I was very proud of Will,” Kuester said. “We hadn’t played him in a while and he came up and stepped to the plate.”
The Pistons got a win on the road and shook off their third-quarter troubles before returning home to Detroit to host the Kings, in a quick turnaround game, Saturday night at The Palace. They handed the Raptors their eighth home loss out of their last 10 games by regaining a level of consistency that had recently been plaguing the team. Now the team is on the hunt for a win streak and the opportunity to build some momentum.