Heat Hang On
Drummond, Bynum rack up huge numbers in narrow Pistons loss to MiamiRemember when the Pistons had a crowded backcourt? Like, two days ago? The ranks were thinned, swiftly and bizarrely, in the hours leading to Thursday’s second preseason game with Miami, a 112-107 loss despite huge games by Andre Drummond and Will Bynum.
First came news that Rodney Stuckey broke the tip of his right thumb when it was smashed against his car’s door jamb Wednesday. He’ll undergo surgery on Friday. The Pistons gave no timetable for his return, though when Stuckey broke his hand in the preseason as a rookie he missed about eight weeks. A typical time frame for a broken bone is six to eight weeks, but the Pistons will know more after Friday’s scheduled surgery.
Also unavailable to Maurice Cheeks against Miami were Brandon Jennings (discomfort from a wisdom tooth), Peyton Siva (a lingering calf injury that has caused him to miss all of training camp) and Chauncey Billups, whom Cheeks said would pick and choose which preseason games he would skip. Billups played 20 minutes in Tuesday’s opener.
That left Bynum and rookie Kentavious Caldwell-Pope – the only backcourt member who has no experience as a point guard – as the last guards standing. Bynum played all but 93 seconds, replaced at point guard first by Caldwell-Pope and then by Kyle Singler, who started at shooting guard, where the Pistons also used Jonas Jerebko. At one juncture, the Pistons had a lineup of Singler and Josh Smith in the backcourt with Charlie Villanueva, Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond up front.
While the Stuckey injury is a setback – Cheeks only Wednesday talked about Stuckey being his most impressive defensive player throughout training camp – the players were upbeat after the Miami game, encouraged by the way they stood toe to toe for three quarters with the Heat’s big three and confident in the quality of their roster to plug the gap.
“We have players on this team,” said Andre Drummond, who had 21 points and 11 rebounds in 28 minutes. “The front office did a good job of getting guys that could replace other guys if things like that happen. Guys had to step up today and play positions they weren’t used to. That’s the best part of this team. We’ve got versatile guys that can do different things.”
“We all played hard,” said Jonas Jerebko, who gave the Pistons 10 points and 12 boards in 33 dogged minutes. “We played with some different lineups out there. Like we’ve talked about, it’s not about position, it’s about who’s out there and who’s playing together. We did a decent job today. We’re getting better.”
The injury situation and the patchwork lineup obscured what otherwise would have been a pretty good storyline – the contrast of styles between Miami and Detroit. The Heat force turnovers, spread the floor with 3-point shooters and let LeBron James and Dwyane Wade make plays. The Pistons, much bigger and more athletic this season, are going to lean on their size and rebounding prowess. The contrast is perhaps best illustrated by the identity of the power forward matchup: Greg Monroe vs. Shane Battier.
So the Pistons with their Monroe-Drummond-Josh Smith frontcourt enjoyed a whopping 55-29 edge in rebounds and held a 22-14 edge in second-chance points. Miami, meanwhile, led 23-11 in points off turnovers – they forced 24 Pistons miscues, eight in the first eight minutes – and outscored the Pistons 30-15 from the 3-point line.
“They made shots,” Cheeks said. “That was pretty much the plan, to post the ball and rebound the ball. That was our strength. Greg (13 points, eight boards, three assists in 28 minutes) and Andre inside the paint were very good. That was the thing we talked about before the game – to make sure we put the ball inside and try to guard them on the perimeter. That’s where they make their mark, shooting threes.”
“You see what our front line is – Smoove, Greg, myself, Tony Mitchell, Jonas,” Drummond said. “You go down the list of our guys, you can’t beat that. I’m just glad I have these guys on my team is really what it boils down to.”
Drummond was spectacular in the third quarter, scoring 14 points and grabbing three rebounds in the first eight minutes as he brought the Pistons back from a nine-point halftime deficit to a three-point lead. He made 4 of 5 free throws in the quarter and did consistent damage at the rim.
“I didn’t even realize until I looked at the stats the numbers that he had,” Cheeks said. “It’s amazing he gets the numbers he gets and we never run a play for him and he still ends up with 20-plus points and 11, 12 rebounds. As time moves on, he’s going to be nothing but a plus for us.”
Bynum finished with 28 points on 11 of 16 shooting to go with six assists and four rebounds.
“He pretty much carried the load for us offensively in the first half,” Cheeks said. “Getting to the rim, splitting their pick and rolls – he was aggressive on pick and rolls, keeping them from trapping him. You couldn’t ask for much more, the way he played tonight.”
With Rodney Stuckey out likely for a matter of several weeks, Bynum went from perhaps outside of the rotation to probably a significant role. The injury could have ripple effects that include a large group of players, not just the five other guards on the roster but players like Singler, Jerebko and Gigi Datome, should he get past the hamstring injury in time to vie for playing time in the preseason.
“Different guys could command that spot,” Cheeks said. “We’ll see what happens.”