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