Pistons extend Cleveland’s anguish, extend losing streak to 26
The Pistons aren’t going to necessarily press Wednesday’s win at Cleveland in the metaphorical scrapbook of their memory bank, but the bench-fueled win was one they couldn’t afford to return to The Palace without.
Not with a 20-33 record and flickering playoff hopes that might swing on however many wins they can scratch out among the four games in six days they face leading to the All-Star break, starting with Friday’s visit by Miami. And not with the certainty that a loss to a team that had dropped 25 straight games – an NBA record – would forever link them in infamy.
“We talked about it – we didn’t want to be on the other end,” Tracy McGrady said. “It was a very important game for us and we took it very seriously.”
“We actually showed the clip that ESPN put on, talking about how they were going to beat us,” Rodney Stuckey said. “We tried to use that as motivation. We weren’t going to let that happen. We didn’t want to be a trivia question. We just came out tonight and got the victory.”
Stuckey did his part, scoring 17 off the bench in the first half and 22 for the game. That was the story: The Pistons mauled the Cavs whenever the opposing coaches went to their benches. Bench scoring was 35-11 at halftime and ended 61-17.
After a sluggish start, it was the bench that turned the game. The longer the Pistons had allowed Cleveland to hang around, the greater the danger they would have been the ones tied to the Cavs in trivia history. Stuckey entered the game with the score tied at 14 and three minutes left in the first quarter. By the time the quarter ended, Stuckey’s five points had sparked a 9-2 close to the quarter and the Pistons would never trail.
“I thought we played extremely well,” said another who did his part, Will Bynum, finishing with 17 points, seven assists and one turnover in 26 minutes. “We shared the basketball, got the ball moving, except for the third quarter. We got a little stagnant, but we bounced back. The second group did a great job of pushing the game back up and closing the game out.”
Kuester let intact second units play big chunks of both the second and fourth quarters and all contributed. Charlie Villaneuva scored 10 in the second quarter and finished with 13, knocking down 3 of 5 from the arc. Austin Daye scored only three points, but contributed with five boards and three assists. And Chris Wilcox had six points and eight boards.
“Rodney Stuckey came in and gave us a huge lift,” John Kuester said. “They’re energy guys and we need their energy. They did a great job. We had to step it up and a lot of our guys stepped up.”
Perhaps the most telling statistic of the bench’s impact was their 16 assists against only two turnovers.
“We played together as a team,” McGrady said. “The unselfish basketball that we played tonight is what makes us a really good team. Rodney played well. Charlie had a big (second) quarter for us and the guy that’s really been playing well is Will. Will has been giving us great energy, providing that spark for us off the bench. If we continue to have everybody playing well like that, we’ll give ourselves a chance, night in and night out.”
Landing between a game with San Antonio, sporting the league’s best record, just 24 hours earlier, and Friday’s visit from Miami, the NBA’s most hyped team, this was a scheduling nightmare and the Pistons knew it. Thanks to their bench, the pressure of avoiding certain infamy didn’t weigh them down. Now if they can scratch out a few home wins heading to the All-Star break, the home stretch gets that much more interesting.