It started with some encouragement:
Nice job, Tay. Way to go, Rip.
Pistons coach John Kuester, usually comfortable in his courtside seat, began the second half of last night’s game by standing and yelling positive reinforcements to the Pistons. He stood the final 24 minutes, looking like someone who had just wandered onto the court and wasn’t entirely sure how to act in a new setting.
His positive comments came before the players deserved them. Two possessions weren’t enough to show they would be any less soft in the second half than they were in the first.
But it worked. They Pistons played harder and crisper. They began the second half on a 21-6 run and stayed in the game until the final seconds. Kuester’s focused demeanor and high spirits made them believe.
But I’m not convinced.
Detroit still lost, 97-93. Why should this game be different? Because the Pistons didn’t lie down for the entire game, like they did last night? Or because they didn’t wait until there were five minutes left to pick up the intensity, like they did when these teams met in November?
All three games ended in losses. Detroit has had plenty of second-half comebacks this season – and most have ended in deafeats. After each, I hoped the Pistons were turning the corner.
This time, I’m not holding my breath.
Late in the third quarter, Rudy Fernandez drove to the basket, and Charlie Villanueva decided to make Fernandez earn the points at the free-throw line.
It didn’t look like Villanueva fouled him that hard, but Fernandez spun around and crashed to the floor. Maybe Fernandez was acting a bit, or maybe Villanueva’s foul was worse than it appeared to me.
Either way, Juwan Howard took exception and got in Villanueva’s face. They were quickly separated by several players, but Villanueva tried to go through the crowd and get to Howard.
Howard saw Villanueva coming and got more upset. Jason Maxiell pushed Howard away, and Rodney Stuckey held onto Villanueva. Tensions cooled.
If anyone deserves blame, it’s Villanueva – and that’s still assuming his initial foul wasn’t with malice. Howard was just playing his role by sticking up for Fernandez. Once they were separated, Villanueva should’ve let it die.
That said, I don’t think the incident was a big deal. And I’m not upset with Villanueva for being fiery. I just wish he constantly showed that attitude with the ball in play.
When the game resumed, the officials began calling a tight game. They did for so both teams, but it probably hurt the Pistons more. The frequent whistles took away the aggressiveness that got them back in the game and killed their momentum.
I’m starting to think Rodney Stuckey and Richard Hamilton could make a good backcourt – this season and going forward.
Hamilton, who made nine assists tonight, has gotten more comfortable with the ball in his hands. I don’t think he’s played what most would consider the point guard position, but he’s assumed point guard-like duties plenty of times.
And the Pistons are learning Stuckey plays best when he spends time off the ball.
The duo is beginning to strike a balance of sharing the playmaking and scoring duties.
So where does that leave Ben Gordon? Yeah, I wonder, too.
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