Party Poopers

The story of the game in Pistons red, white and blue

TEAM COLORS

The story of the game in Pistons red, white and blue

– Brandon Knight said Wednesday morning he trusts the coaches to give him whatever role they think he’s ready to handle. Based on his second-half play in his first regular-season game at The Palace, he might be making a case for a greater role. It’s clear, already, that he’s safely a part of a three-guard rotation. Will Bynum didn’t play after Lawrence Frank used four guards in the opener at Indiana, likely because of early foul trouble to Rodney Stuckey. Knight scored six first-half points against Cleveland, then came on with eight minutes left in the third quarter and gave the Pistons 10 points and three assists, making 5 of 6 shots, as he helped keep them close to the Cavs after trailing by 11 at halftime. Knight finished with 23 points and six assists as Cleveland took control of the game late in the second half and went on to a 105-89 win.

BLUE COLLAR – Samardo Samuels went undrafted two years ago out of Louisville after two seasons in college, but he did damage against the Pistons in the preseason – getting to the foul line 16 times in one game – and continued to do so on Wednesday. Samuels, a 260-pounder with nimble feet around the basket and a decent mid-range touch, got inside frequently and again forced the Pistons to foul him. He finished with 17 points, including 5 of 6 at the line, to go with four rebounds.

RED FLAG – Rebounding flared up as an issue again in a second quarter in which the Pistons were outscored 25-16 and outrebounded 13-6, but scoring has become a real source of concern. After being held to just 79 points in the opening loss at Indiana, the Pistons managed just 89 against Cleveland, 39 in the first half. Take away Brandon Knight’s 10 of 13 and the rest of the Pistons shot 26 of 68. Without Charlie Villanueva, who returns after missing one more game, the frontcourt hasn’t provided enough punch to open things up for the perimeter.

If the price of discovering a star in the making was a loss in the highly anticipated debut of the Tom Gores era, the new Pistons owner would probably take that deal in a heartbeat.

Brandon Knight, the building block Joe Dumars added in the 2011 draft to go with Greg Monroe from the previous year’s lottery, made a strong case for a greater role – whether that’s starting eventually or seizing more minutes and greater control of the offense – with a scintillating second half that breathed life into a Pistons team struggling to score and get into its offensive sets with efficiency.

“Don’t worry about the results,” Gores would say a few minutes before a grand pregame rollout that left a 22,076 sellout breathless and the tipoff of what would become a 105-89 loss to Cleveland. “Do the right things every day.”

Knight did so very much right, making 10 of 13 shots, scoring 10 points and dealing three assists in an eight-minute stint in the third quarter to fuel a Pistons comeback, and finishing with 23 points and six assists.

“I feel bad for him because we had a 20-point loss,” Austin Daye said, “and he still played great. Next time he can have 30 and we’ll have a 20-point win.”

Knight talked at Wednesday’s shootaround of needing to adjust to the greater length, quickness and strength of NBA players, citing the six turnovers he committed in his debut at Indiana two nights earlier. Pretty nice adjustment, huh, kid?

“There’s always room for improvement,” he said, the last one out of the locker room, reserved as always. “I still had two turnovers. Just trying to make sure I’m getting better, seeing guys and just trying to run the team.”

Knight played 29 minutes off the bench. Will Bynum, first off the bench at guard at Indiana when Rodney Stuckey got tagged with two quick fouls, didn’t play in the home opener.

“Brandon was very, very good tonight,” Lawrence Frank said. “Brandon’s spirit was right, his heart was right. He obviously was very excited to get out there on the home court and I thought Brandon played very well.”

Knight’s impressed the Pistons on all fronts – with his competitiveness, lack of awe, shooting, quickness and court vision – since training camp opened, and now he’s showing early signs of leadership and the type of court presence common to great point guards.

“He definitely played well,” said Greg Monroe, who got off to a strong start but finished with 10 points and seven rebounds plus five turnovers. “He came in and went on a run by himself, basically, gave us a spark today.”

Knight aside, highlights are hard to find when a team loses at home by 16 to the franchise that posted the league’s worst record a season ago and lost its home opener two nights earlier to another lottery team, Toronto.

But it was a good sign that Ben Gordon, whose scoring the Pistons will need consistently this season, not only scored 25 but did so efficiently. Gordon hit 9 of 19, including 4 of 9 from the arc, and added four assists.

Without Charlie Villanueva – who must sit out Friday’s game at Boston to fulfill his four-game suspension, returning for the New Year’s Eve tipoff at The Palace on Saturday – frontcourt scoring remains an issue. Monroe, Jonas Jerebko, Ben Wallace and Jason Maxiell combined for 18 points. Aside from Knight’s 23 points, the only production off Frank’s bench came on a late dunk from Vernon Macklin set up by a Knight feed. Cleveland’s bench, meanwhile, had three double-figures scorers and 56 points.

And for the second straight game, the Pistons were dominated on the glass, where Cleveland held a 40-26 edge, outrebounding them 13-6 in the second quarter when the Cavs outscored the Pistons 25-16 to take an 11-point halftime lead.

“It even started in the first quarter,” Frank said. “They shot 62 percent in the first quarter. We’re not going to win any games defensively when you’re allowing that. We’re giving up transition buckets, middle drives … it’s not just the offensive rebounds, it’s the penetration or the pick and roll that’s leading to rotations and missed syncs and not getting to bodies and allowing frustrating things to impact our defense. You get what you deserve; we got what we deserved.”

“It’s only our second game of the season,” Gordon said. “We’re not taking these two losses for granted. We’re disappointed after every loss, but it’s fast and furious. We’ve got to have a short memory, come back tomorrow ready to work and try to get back on track.”

“I just know every day we come in here, we work,” Knight said. “Guys come in here every day and put their heart and soul into practice. I just know if we continue to do that, we’re going to keep faith in that and over time, we’ll see some results.”