Knight and Daye combo leads Pistons past Cavs
CLEVELAND – Intent on pulling a 180 from a nightmarish 2010-11 season, the appeal of a Knight and Daye backcourt might go beyond word play for Lawrence Frank.
With Ben Gordon out and Rodney Stuckey limited because he’s only been in camp four days – though Stuckey wound up playing 22 minutes in his debut, scoring 15 and knocking down all 10 of his free throws – Lawrence Frank started rookie Brandon Knight alongside Austin Daye at guard in the final preseason game, a 90-89 win at Cleveland.
For the seven minutes they were on the floor together in the first quarter, they sparkled. Daye scored 10 quick points, hitting both of his 3-point attempts off of feeds from Knight. Knight picked up four assists in nine first-quarter minutes as the Pistons built an early 10-point lead and racked up 30 first-quarter points.
They were even better in the final minute, when the Pistons capped a comeback on the backs of Knight and Daye. Knight ripped a rebound away from 7-footer Ryan Hollins to give the Pistons that resulted in a Will Bynum basket to pull the Pistons within one, then stole a Cleveland inbounds pass with six seconds left, a sequence that led to Daye knocking down the winning free throws.
It’s only two games, but so far Knight and Daye have developed a certain chemistry. Every time Knight gets past the first wave of defense, he seems to find an open Daye, who finished with a game-high 19 points while Knight scored seven to go with six assists and four rebounds.
“I was happy when they drafted him because I knew he was a good point guard that had really good court vision and could score,” Daye said. “For him to be on our team, we’re fortunate right now.”
“Whenever I get in the paint, he seems to be one of those guys that are open,” Knight said. “So I’ve got not problem kicking it to a guy that’s open and especially a guy that can definitely shoot it. Austin is definitely a good option, a great shooter.”
The Pistons committed a whopping 24 turnovers, which explained how Cleveland turned a 10-point deficit into a 12-point lead. The comeback started when Lawrence Frank went to a three-guard lineup of Knight, Will Bynum and Rodney Stuckey, who played 22 minutes in his debut and scored 15 points, including all 10 foul shots.
Knight didn’t score, taking only three shots, through three quarters. But when he came back for the fourth, a personal 7-0 run – a 3-pointer, a driving floater and two free throws when fouled in transition – pulled the Pistons within a point.
“This is what I give Brandon,” Frank said. “Brandon struggled, especially to start the third quarter, and I give him a lot of credit in that he stayed with it. He gave us a huge lift. It’s not easy when you’re struggling in a game to move on to the next play and have what we call instant amnesia. I thought he did a great job of it. That’s showing some mental toughness.”
With Frank still intent on holding down everyone’s minutes and both Gordon and Charlie Villanueva unavailable, absent due to excused personal reasons, the second unit lacked scoring punch, which helped open the door for Cleveland to take a four-point halftime lead.
“If you think about how we started the game – really good ball movement, wide-open shots because of ball movement. The ball started sticking,” Frank said. “The NBA is a matchup league, but sometimes the worst thing is when people think they have mismatches and now all of a sudden things get stagnant.”
They didn’t stay stagnant for long in the fourth quarter, though, after Knight came back into the game, exhibiting the same aplomb in pressure situations he showed as a Kentucky freshman last season, coming up with a huge rebound and an even bigger steal to net the Pistons a win.
“It wasn’t even those plays that made me like him so much,” Daye said. “I’ve always liked his game. He was not bashful to shoot that three to put us up two. I like that. It’s good to have an aggressive point guard and someone who knows the game really well. Because I could tell at Kentucky, he really knew how to play.”