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Charlie Villanueva is a go-to player and Rip Hamilton has a vintage performance as the Pistons overcome big nights from Gilbert Arenas and JaVale McGee

Last season, if Charlie Villanueva had a poor shooting night, it was usually a sign that he would follow it up with at least one more before he re-found his touch.

After shooting 2-for-11 against the Lakers on Wednesday, I expressed my desire to see him bounce back and have a respectable night against Washington. A couple commenters took me to task, saying Villanueva’s off night against L.A. wasn’t a big deal. And if it were any other player who had an off night, I’d agree. But for all of the criticisms people have had of Villanueva during his career, my main gripe with him has always been madding inconsistency. The talent was always there, the desire to be a good player was always there, the ability to take over a game with his offense was always there. The ability to quickly put a bad game behind him, however, has been a recurring issue.

So Villanueva’s great performance, 25 points on 10-of-18 shooting in Sunday’s 115-110 overtime win over Washington, was another great step in what is becoming a great bounce-back season for him. But more impressive than the scoring were the rebounds. Villanueva finished with 11. That’s only the fourth time as a Piston Villanueva has registered double-digit rebounds in a game.

Villanueva’s evolution so far has been remarkable. Not only is he becoming a reliable, game-in, game-out, option on offense, he’s playing very well at crunch time, scoring seven points in the final five minutes to help Detroit tie it. He’s easily been the most impressive Piston based on his collective body of work this season, he’s one of the few guys on the team who really displays a positive attitude all the time and he took another step towards turning around that “bad signing” label he may have been given a bit prematurely after last season.

At the end of the day, what the Pistons come away with is another hard-fought win over a not-very-good team that was missing its best player, John Wall, due to injury. The Pistons needed a late comeback and overtime, similar to their win over the Clippers, just to get that. But with all the drama, with all of the criticisms, they’re still 5-8, a half game out of eighth in the East, and every bit as much a contender for a playoff spot as those other flawed but lovable scamps in the 6th-15th range.

Rip Hamilton once again takes over game late

Pistons fans probably just shouldn’t bother watching Rip Hamilton until late in games. After the first quarter against Washington, when Hamilton shot just 2-for-6, I thought to myself, “man … he’s taking a lot of not-Rip Hamilton shots.” Hamilton made his career as an 18ish per game scorer and 46ish percent shooter with a very specific type of shot: off the catch.

His struggles the last few seasons have been well-documented. His shooting percentage, once very respectable for a guard, has plummeted to Iverson-like depths. And many have written the Hamilton-as-good-player obit in their heads a dozen times or more.

I’m beginning to think he’s not as finished as his numbers indicate, however. He’s just not taking good shots consistently. Against Washington, he forced two 3-pointers in that first quarter that were forced, off the dribble and not necessary to beat the shot clock or anything like that. It was just Hamilton improvising, trying to create on his own and taking shots that he doesn’t have the ability to make consistently. And if you think back to several Hamilton games since the Chauncey Billups trade, they fit that description. Essentially, Hamilton trying to do too much is a recurring thing.

Now, late against Washington, he took over and played really well, like he’s done late in games all season. But check out how he did it against the Wizards in overtime:

  • Hamilton 9-footer off a feed from Tayshaun Prince
  • Hamilton makes 18-footer with shot clock winding down
  • Hamilton 16-footer off a pass from Rodney Stuckey
  • Hamilton 17-footer off a pass from Stuckey
  • Hamilton 20-footer off a pass from Prince

Five shots in overtime for Hamilton. Five makes. Four of them off of assists.

There’s really no secret here. Hamilton is much better when he’s moving and catching the ball off of screens. The key is him moving it back if he doesn’t have a shot right away. He has problems when he tries to dribble his way to a better shot. Hamilton is a quick-decision player, and too often he’s trying to be a more deliberate type of scorer. That rarely pays off for the Pistons or for Hamilton.

Villanueva keeps Daye on the bench

Another trend started in this game: if Austin Daye doesn’t start because John Kuester feels Jason Maxiell has a better matchup, don’t expect Daye to play at all. Now, to be fair, this time around Maxiell had a really good game, scoring a season-high 14 points, and Villanueva, as mentioned above, had a great game off the bench. Kuester was right to stick with those guys since they had it going. Against Sacramento, the first time Daye sat, Villanueva and Maxiell didn’t do anything particularly special.

Two games is a small amount of time to glean any kind of meaning from this, but I have to say, it seems strange. Daye has sat due to unfavorable matchups against the Wizards JaVale McGee/Andray Blatche frontline and the Kings’ Carl Landry/Sam Dalembert combo. Now, no offense to those tandems. They’re certainly solid. But check out some of the apparently more favorable matchups where Daye has started and played: Kevin Garnett/Shaquille O’Neal; Al Horford/Josh Smith; Pau Gasol/Lamar Odom; Marcus Camby/LaMarcus Aldridge.

Does this seem kind of random to anyone else? How are matchups like the one tonight deemed “unfavorable” yet when the Pistons have played against some elite, All-Star caliber frontlines, Daye is right in there? This is quickly becoming one of the most confusing storylines of the year with the Pistons.

Don’t get me wrong, I think Daye is overmatched as a starting four every night. But if he’s not overmatched against Odom/Gasol, he certainly isn’t against McGee/Blatche.

Signs of life from Bynum

There’s no Piston I want to see get it together more than Will Bynum, strictly from a personal, “I just love to watch him,” perspective. He’s been really bad so far this season as he tries to battle back from a myriad of injuries. He wasn’t fantastic against Washington, but he did solid backup PG work, scoring nine points, shooting 3-for-5 and picking up three assists with no turnovers in about 17 minutes. My days of arguing the merits of Bynum as a starter are over, as Stuckey has obviously out-played him to this point, but the Pistons need competent minutes at that spot so that Stuckey doesn’t have to play 40 or more minutes a game just to keep the team competitive. Bynum is their best bet to fill those minutes if he can build on tonight’s performance.

The disappearing Ben Gordon

Ben Gordon is almost a rallying cry among Pistons fans at this point. He’s young and a prolific scorer who has shot the ball really well this season, basically an exciting potential bridge to a better team. Hamilton, on the other hand, is older and since he’s been around forever, his popularity among fans anxious for a new look is declining. So every time Gordon doesn’t get enough shots or minutes, it certainly riles people up.

Gordon scored 10 points, shot 4-of-6 and only played 20 minutes. I fully expect a couple “Gordon should’ve played more” comments to pop up. But I actually think, despite his offense, it was hard to keep him on the floor tonight. He had two really bad defensive plays against Nick Young in the first half, and when the Pistons bench came into the game in the second quarter, Washington erased a seven-point lead within a couple minutes.

Gordon has to get his turn and get on the court more, no doubt. But Hamilton was just better offensively and defensively tonight.


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  • Nov 22, 201012:47 am
    by Laser


    villa should be starting. this is getting old. and something’s got to be done about these shooting guards quick. usually one (1) of rip, stuck, BG has a good night, sometimes two, never all three. these guys are too big a part of your team not to be able to play together. it’s practically your whole damn backcourt. this just needs to be fixed. it’s painful to watch. how long are we going to pay ben gordon $11 million to take six shots? SIX shots! and this is the norm when we’re at full strength. dude’s one of the best shooters in the damn league.
    i don’t know about you guys, but clawing out overtime wins against bad teams missing their best players (LAC, WAS) doesn’t satisfy me.

  • Nov 22, 20102:15 am
    by Chabvis


    I have to say I am one of the biggest Gordon should be getting the majority of the minutes and shots every night guys, but tonight Kuester played it right. When Washington went on that run in the second quarter I was hoping that Kuester would just pull the entire lineup (not really sure who was out there, but I remember that Bynum and BG were the back court).
    Bynum has been brutally bad so far this year, and quite frankly has been a complete liability. He shot reasonably tonight (I cringed when he shot the jumper from the left wing that somehow went in), but he got absolutely eaten alive defensively by Arenas. Clearly it is not the greatest match-up for him, but he was just an absolute liability out there. We have 11 guys in the mix for playing time, so far this year he has quite obviously been the worst of the 11. If someone is going to be losing minutes I would much rather have it being Bynum. He had a solid year last season, but he has played so poorly this year that I would rather just see Tay, T-mac or even BG running the point as Stuckey sits.

  • Nov 22, 20102:16 am
    by nuetes


    I completely agree Laser. A win is a win of course, but they aren’t coming easily even against bad competition. You can’t pinpoint one Piston and say they had a bad game against Washington. They all played pretty good ball. And they still had to come from behind and force OT, and have Rip go off in OT to win it. So much has to go right for them to win, and fortunately for them it has on a few occasions.
    Well, I guess I will point out one player – Bynum. I see that Hayes praised him in the article, but his defense is just so bad. Arenas had his way with him. He let Arenas go right by him constantly. Granted Agent ’9′ was making some ridiculous plays out there.
    Mcgee and Blatche might not have seemed like an intimidating matchup for Daye, but after witnessing what they are capable of I’m going to say that starting Maxiell was probably a wise choice. Washington has some talent to be sure, but they take a lot of bad shots. I have no idea why Blatche is taking 20 footers, no idea why Young and Thornton are forcing ugly shots, and no idea why Mcgee is jumping 10 feet in the air to block jump shots from a mile away. They all have talent, they just don’t seem to have any idea what to do with it.
    Last thought. CV played good. That is all.
    Oh wait, Rip. Yeah that guy. Where has he been?

  • Nov 22, 20104:32 am
    by Laser


    my take on bynum (one of my very favorite pistons) which may surprise some: i might actually take him out of the rotation myself. i think this system and this collection of talent is a recipe for unbridled disaster. you said it, nuetes. everything has to go right for this team to beat bad teams. nobody stood out as having a bad game, except stuckey who’s supposed to be the leader and run the offense. so this point-by-committee system, which is presumably meant to help compensate for his shortcomings, probably ends up hurting him because he’s just a miserable failure of a point guard. i swear to god he could be such an exciting player and scorer if we just moved him off the ball. watching stuckey relentlessly attack and score would be a joy if that was his role on the team. stuckey inside, gordon outside, and a strong playmaker setting them up… but you don’t want a guy running your offense whose go-to move is just to bull his way to the basket for a soft layup.
    achem, anyhow… i wouldn’t expect bynum to see much success as the sixth man on the perimeter depth chart. i think he has a decent track record when he’s really allowed to operate, and when he’s really depended upon. but when you look at the minutes distribution, stuckey has 36, rip 33, which seem perfectly normal for a starting backcourt (though it’s almost 4 minutes above stuckey’s season average and over seven minutes above rip’s), gordon only managed 20, and there was still only 16 plus left for will… and this includes overtime. something has to give, right? gordon struggles like hell to get minutes and shots playing behind our starters, and bynum’s buried even deeper. he has the ball in his hands for a handful of offensive possessions at a time and he has to make his mark because there are plenty of fresh legs to replace him.
    bottom line is they’re better off cutting absolutely anyone from the perimeter out of the rotation. any six of our perimeter guys with four ACTUAL big men would be a big step in the right direction. but yeah, this was yet another game nobody should feel good about.

  • Nov 22, 20108:35 am
    by Patrick Hayes


    “he got absolutely eaten alive defensively by Arenas”
    In fairness, so did Stuckey. Arenas had 19 points, shot over 50 percent and had 16 dimes. He did basically whatever he wanted against whoever was guarding him.

  • Nov 22, 20108:38 am
    by Patrick Hayes


    “Mcgee and Blatche might not have seemed like an intimidating matchup for Daye, but after witnessing what they are capable of I’m going to say that starting Maxiell was probably a wise choice.”
    I’m not making the choice that it wasn’t a wise choice to not start him. But I am saying if that is an intimidating matchup (and it is), why isn’t KG/Shaq? Or Gasol/Odom? Or Horford/Smith? Or Aldridge/Camby? Those frontcourts are all better than the two Daye has sat against due to matchups.
    Like I said in the post, Daye is overmatched at the position every single night. So using “matchups” as an excuse to not start him and not play him, particularly when those two instances have happened against two of the worst teams in the league, that just doesn’t make any sense to me.

  • Nov 22, 20108:44 am
    by Patrick Hayes


    ” but yeah, this was yet another game nobody should feel good about.”
    And still … they’re a game from being sixth in the East. And don’t look now, but with that .385 winning percentage, they’re in danger of avoiding that 50-loss mark you predicted. And after a pretty difficult November schedule, things get quite a bit easier after games vs. Miami and Orlando to open December.
    They’re not playing good. They’ll probably get blown out by the top four teams in either conference most of the times they play. But they can beat most of the bad teams in this league and will sneak out a couple wins vs. better teams on bad nights.
    As long as Ben Wallace holds up and Villanueva and Stuckey continue to out-pace their career production as they have so far, the Pistons will hang around a playoff spot all season, even if they are an extremely flawed team.

  • Nov 22, 20109:37 am
    by vic


    I like Rips productivity being able to do what he does…
    I know he’s still a great player, even though we have too many shooters, not enough post players.
    But I think it’s kind of a coaching responsibility.

    Why did it take so long for us to figure out that Rip excels coming off screens?
    Why do we run isos instead of passing?
    We know that assists lead to wins?
    Will this be a permanent change in our game plan?

  • Nov 22, 201012:09 pm
    by nuetes


    a .385 win percentage would be good for 31-32 wins, so 50 losses is still in range. and of course we should know current win percentage isn’t a good indicator of future win percentage. Wins Produced predicts 27 wins based on player performance to date (which includes CV and Gordon’s hot starts) and Pythagorean Wins predicts 28 wins based on O and D ratings. So the team is on pace for somewhere in the 27-32 win range regardless of how you want to predict it.

  • Nov 22, 201012:15 pm
    by nuetes


    Another interesting thing – Pistons are 22nd in attendance this season after being 8th in attendance last season. Jonas!

  • [...] explosion in overtime of Detroit’s win against the Wizards on Sunday generated some mid-2000s nostalgia for the old Rip. Patrick Hayes of Piston Powered says that’s exactly the point — Hamilton thrived [...]

  • Nov 22, 20104:49 pm
    by Laser


    looking ahead, i count 27 games i put in the category of “unwinnable.” as for the rest of the games, they range pretty evenly from very tough matchups to coin-flips. at best, i think our chances of winning a given game are 50-50, no matter how “good” the matchup. thus it would be rather optimistic to guess we’ll win half of those “winnable” games, and that would put us at 26 wins for the season. which sounds about right. they’ve looked consistently like a 26 win team so far, give or take a win. every bit as bad as last year, which is my only firm prediction for their performance. what have you seen after 13 consecutive ugly games that makes you think 50 losses isn’t likely?
    and this really hasn’t been all that “difficult” of a stretch so far. charlotte, sacramento, washington, jersey, the clippers, split a pair with golden state, okc, boozer-less bulls, atlanta, portland, boston, the lakers. that looks like a pretty representative sample of the league to me. 2 elite teams, 2 contenders, 2 very solid ones, a couple of shaky ones, and the utter garbage.
    to close out november, we have dallas, memphis, milwaukee, new york and orlando. that new york game may be the only thing that keeps us from closing out the month without another win, or maybe they’ll trounce us. but none of those looks like a win to me. december opens with another orlando game and one with miami. then our reward is a stretch against cleveland, houston, n’awlins twice, atlanta. i don’t think we’re favorites over the wolves. maybe over the raptors, clippers (unless kaman’s back), then the last week of the year has chicago (plus boozer i think), charlotte, boston and phoenix. how many of these games look like wins?? .385 may be our high water mark.

  • Nov 22, 20106:21 pm
    by gmehl1977


    @Patrick & Laser
    As much as i want the pistons to win games i think it is also very important that they play well. Is it better at the moment for them to win games and play bad or is it better to lose games and play well. There has been games this season where they have played well but ended up losing and i can deal with that as long as they show heart and try and play beyond themselves. The 4 games where they have given up or come out flat have been the Boston, LA, Golden State & Chicago games. They started the Chicago game well but lost and finished the Golden State game well but lost so i guess you can say they have really only quit on 2 occasions.
    Also i am totally not against Kuester not playing Daye every game. Don’t get me wrong as i would prefer Daye to play every game but the kid is being asked to play PF so resting him on back-to-backs and starting Maxiell might not be such a bad idea. By not playing Daye when Maxiell plays it just frees up minutes for Gordon who didn’t play much anyway when Daye didn’t play against the Wizards. The finger for this situation can only be pointed at one guy and that is Joe Dumars. To Kuester’s credit i think he has figured out that if Maxiell starts then either Mcgrady, Day or Gordon will have to sit for the whole game. I doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that there is way too many wings on this team to play them all. As long as Daye plays 50-60 games this year then i am fine with that and it hopefully keeps the kid injury free banging with all the big PFs he has been asked to.

  • Nov 22, 201011:38 pm
    by gozone


    Hey, this is a great site. Great work! I am a die hard Pistons fan and am glad I stumbled on this. I was at the game on Sunday. It was a fun game to be at, I was into it. I realize they are flawed but  I still enjoy heading out to The Palace. I liked that McGee guy, he may have a bright future. Also, is there a way to become a member on this site, thanks.

  • Nov 23, 20108:51 am
    by Patrick Hayes



    Thanks for the comments and we’re glad to have you. We don’t have memberships or anything, you just sign up for a username, as you have, and you’re all set to comment and participate.

    And if you like McGee, check out this sequence from his game vs. Boston:


    He’s one of the best athletes in the league who has really low basketball IQ half the time (as evidenced by that shot he tried to take in the video), but it makes him insanely fun to watch.

  • Nov 23, 20109:04 am
    by Rodman4Life


    My take on Daye sitting is that Kuester is showing his hand in the games he is “going after.”  Daye is definitely overmathced against Garnett & Co. and Gasol/Odom, but throwing Maxiell at them isn’t going to rough ‘em up or gain us any kind of a mental edge.f  Those match ups are already lost.  However, Kuester targeted and wanted the Sacramento and Washington games, and he wanted the physicality of Maxiell to set the tone and compete.  I take it to be a situation where the coach sees a winnable game and he is more inclined to trust the veteran to get it done.  What do you think?
    I find it interesting that Kuester has only done this twice.  The only other game I think he might have done this is versus Charlotte, but they only throw Diaw at us, and I actually would trust Daye against a shorter, softer player.

  • Nov 23, 20102:38 pm
    by Rob Wessels


    Piston kick ass forever and ever.

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