Stuckey's Sunday

Brilliant off the bench, Stuckey drops 27 as Pistons snip the Nets


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

WHITE HOT – Rodney Stuckey came off the bench to score a season-high 27 points as the Pistons snapped a two-game losing streak with a 109-97 win at Brooklyn in a Sunday matinee. The Pistons trailed by 12 late in the second quarter before cutting their halftime deficit to seven, but a dominant third quarter in which they outscored Brooklyn 34-15 put them ahead by 12 headed to the fourth. Stuckey, who added six assists and four rebounds in 30 minutes, made decisive moves to the basket to soften Brooklyn’s interior defense and made at least two great hustle plays that bought the Pistons extra possessions, plus drew a fourth-quarter charge on Alan Anderson with excellent defensive footwork to get in front of him. With the Nets charging from 15 down to six with less than three minutes left, Stuckey hit Greg Monroe for a layup to snap Brooklyn’s momentum.

BLUE COLLAR – Brandon Jennings said on Saturday he lacked confidence in his jump shot and he didn’t make one all afternoon against the Nets, his only two baskets in 10 attempts being layups. But Jennings played 41 minutes and posted a double-double with 14 points and 10 assists, rarely forcing things and playing intelligently down the stretch to milk possessions, limiting Brooklyn’s ability to rally back. Jennings, who was a perfect 10 of 10 at the line, turned the ball over just three times despite the heavy minutes and having the ball in his hands on virtually every possession.

RED FLAG – Other teams have longer injury lists than the Pistons – Brooklyn, for one – but don’t underestimate how the absence of Chauncey Billups and Will Bynum has affected them. With rookie Kentavious Caldwell-Pope struggling with his shot – he was 2 of 10 against the Nets – Cheeks simply doesn’t have the flexibility to cut his minutes or make him a defensive specialist at this point. Bynum (hamstring) did some light running during Saturday’s practice, Cheeks said, while Billups (knee tendinitis) isn’t yet to that point.

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NEW YORK – There are many issues the Pistons have yet to resolve as they try to make a bunch of new pieces fit, but it certainly appears as if one thing is settled: When Rodney Stuckey comes off the bench, the offense is in his hands.

“He’s our go-to guy once he’s off the bench, no doubt about that,” Brandon Jennings said after he happily stepped aside and let Stuckey dominate in a brilliant second-half run as the Pistons won at Brooklyn 109-97 in a Sunday matinee. “He’s a big spark once he comes off the bench. He can score, he’s really strong and he takes a lot of pressure off everybody.”

Stuckey scored 21 of his 27 points in the second half, leading the Pistons to their most productive half of the season. They outscored the Nets 65-46 after trailing at halftime, including a dominant 34-15 third quarter.

It was their defense that really lit the fuse, the Pistons forcing eight Brooklyn turnovers that led to 10 Detroit points in the quarter. Jennings scored 10 points in the third, scoring two layups off of Nets turnovers and knocking down all six of his free throws.

“The defense sparked it,” said Josh Smith, back in the starting lineup after coming off the bench in Friday’s loss to Atlanta, finishing with 13 points, eight rebounds, three assists and three steals. “We got out in transition a little bit and wanted to do a conscious effort in that second half of pushing the ball and trying to get easy points. The defense definitely sparked our offense.”

“Defense is what helped us win the game,” Maurice Cheeks said, citing specifically the improved job the Pistons did checking Brooklyn’s pick and roll. “When you get stops and turnovers, you get in the open court. We usually can convert on those things. But the key was actually getting those stops, rebounding the ball and getting out in the open court.”

"He is the go-to guy off the bench, no doubt about that. He is a big spark once he comes off the bench, he is a scorer, he is really strong and he also takes a lot of pressure off of everyone."

- Brandon Jennings on Rodney Stuckey
Full game quotes
The Pistons held the Nets to 39.5 percent shooting in the second half while they hit 59 percent of their shots and also knocked down 25 free throws in a whopping 35 second-half attempts. The only thing that kept Brooklyn from being blown out in its own building was its 14 of 26 3-point performance, including a preposterous 8 of 10 for Joe Johnson, who finished with 34 points.

The game was also notable for yet another stab by Cheeks at solving the lack of 3-point shooting by turning to Charlie Villanueva after previous looks at Jonas Jerebko and Gigi Datome at backup power forward. Villanueva, playing frequently alongside another relative newcomer to the rotation, Josh Harrellson, finished with eight points and three rebounds in 12 minutes. Harrellson scored four points in 11 minutes.

“Some nights it’s going to take a little time for the starters to get it going,” Smith said. “I’m glad to see CV back. He’s such an outside threat for this basketball team. It’s going to be real beneficial for us throughout the season.”

“We also have Chauncey (Billups) and Will (Bynum) out, so we still have a couple of guys that can fill out that second unit,” Cheeks said. “But those guys who came in the game gave us big lifts. We need those guys to defend and make some shots. Charlie made some shots for us we haven’t been making, so he gave us a big lift tonight.”

Kyle Singler, who scored a career-high 22 in his cameo start for Smith on Friday, carried his momentum into Sunday with 11 points and six rebounds in 26 minutes. Minus Billups and Bynum, Cheeks pared his backcourt rotation to three, bringing in rookie Peyton Siva only for final-minute mop-up duty and running Jennings for 41 minutes. Though he again struggled to make a jump shot – both of his baskets in 10 tries were layups – Jennings impressed his teammates and coaches by playing a controlled game, picking up 10 assists and hitting all 10 of his foul shots.

“That’s the mark of a good player, not relying on his offense to always be the focal point of his game,” said Cheeks, who fashioned a career out of just such an afternoon. “He played a full game. The way he ran his team was very instrumental. His shot will come; as long as the other parts stay intact, we’ll be fine.”

Said Smith of Jennings: “Using his quickness, utilizing his speed and his point guard probing savvy, he was able to get guys open looks and any time he was in the paint, he was able to draw defenders. He was making the right pass all night tonight.”

Smith, Andre Drummond (nine points, 10 rebounds, a point shy of his eighth straight double-double) and Greg Monroe (18 points, 11 rebounds) overpowered Brooklyn’s frontcourt, the Pistons outrebounding the shorthanded Nets – minus Brook Lopez, Deron Williams, Andrei Kirilenko and Jason Terry – 44-35. But it was Stuckey who kept the Pistons from danger when Brooklyn starting dropping 3-point bombs in the fourth quarter, scoring 17 points while missing just one of six shots and one of eight free throws.

“Stuckey’s been great,” Cheeks said. “When he comes off the bench, we put the ball in his hands and usually go to him to try to get points. When they were making the run, he was able to stop it. He’s been big like that all season.”

As the Nets groped for a defense that could contain Stuckey, the Pistons kept funneling the ball his way, Smith said.

“Most definitely. Whenever a player is going on your team, why turn that water off? That’s what we were able to do in that second half. We jumped on his back and he carried us.”