Fresh Start, Same Results
Pistons return from break to act out familiar script in loss to Houston
“All of our losses have been difficult,” Will Bynum said after the 108-100 loss to Houston, which came into the game 26-31 but outscored the Pistons 15-6 after two Bynum free throws gave the Pistons a 94-93 lead with under five minutes to go. “They’ve kind of pretty much been the same thing every time. We’ve got to figure out a way to execute better down the stretch and get stops.”
“It’s the same ol’,” John Kuester said. “You’ve just got to be smart coming down the stretch.”
Kuester went with an unorthodox lineup in that stretch drive, bringing Rodney Stuckey on for Charlie Villanueva as Bynum was shooting those free throws to give the Pistons the lead.
He did it, in large measure, because it was the guards – primarily, Bynum, Stuckey and Ben Gordon – who were most effective in attacking Houston’s defense. Bynum led the Pistons with 21 points and six assists against no turnovers in 23 minutes. Stuckey had 19, nine in the third quarter when he provided virtually all of his team’s offense until Kuester waved his bench into the game when Houston quickly built an 11-point lead from a halftime tie. And Gordon finished with 15.
Bynum, Gordon and Stuckey have been thrilled when Kuester puts them out together since they became teammates to start the 2009-10 season. The lineup showed early promise before ankle injuries wrecked the seasons of Bynum and Gordon, but this year – with the addition of McGrady and Austin Daye’s emergence – their chances to play together have been few and far between.
“I don’t think it hurt us defensively – I think they just made shots,” Bynum said. “If anything, it helped – being able to attack, being able to pressure the ball upcourt, having quicker guys out there to rotate quicker and playing with a whole lot more effort.”
“We felt we could attack, we could defend with that lineup still,” Kuester said. “That wasn’t the issue. We got looks. We just couldn’t finish it. I had no problems with the adjustment. We’ve got to be smart going down the stretch.”
Kuester rewarded the bench by letting it play a good chunk of the fourth quarter after cutting the 11-point deficit to three entering the last period, and that bench – Gordon, Bynum, Villanueva, Daye and Chris Wilcox – played especially well offensively, scoring 19 points in a little over seven minutes.
But after Kuester went small, they failed to score on their next six possessions, including two open Daye corner triples and an especially damaging miss by Gordon in transition when he tried to attack off a Houston turnover, wound up taking an out-of-control shot that missed and fueled a fast break the other way that resulted in Rockets rookie Patrick Patterson scoring and getting fouled.
“It was a one-point game at that stage,” Kuester said. “He wanted to be aggressive. It just didn’t pan out the way he wanted it to. He had some things going his way. He wishes he had that back.”
That, too, is the story of the season – most of their 37 losses swinging on two or three plays the Pistons would like to have back.