Before last night’s game against Golden State when the Pistons announced that Rip Hamilton would start, moving leading scorer (and 58 percent shooting) Ben Gordon back to the bench. The decision wasn’t a popular one if Twitter is any judge.
I won’t get into that controversy too much. There’s certainly a case to be made that Gordon has won the job. He’s been great shooting the ball and he has improved enough defensively to not be a total liability at that end of the floor. I also get why Hamilton starts despite shooting poorly overall to start the season. He has continuity with long-time teammates Tayshaun Prince and Ben Wallace, he’s been a better defender and passer and also not as big a turnover threat as Gordon for his career, and the Pistons probably wouldn’t mind shedding his contract, so starting him, keeping him relatively happy and trying to get his shot un-broke are all important reasons to not bench him if he’s healthy.
Hamilton’s overall numbers haven’t been good, although his great game against the Warriors helped them look healthier. But offensively in fourth quarters, he’s been great for the Pistons. Here are his fourth quarter numbers:
- 33 points/6.6 per fourth quarter
- 10-18 field goals/56 percent
- 9-for-9 at the free throw line in five fourth quarters
I realize that with Hamilton only appearing in five games so far this season, we’re working with a really small sample size, but the fourth quarter numbers, along with his shooting the entire game against Golden State, show that stories of his decline continuing might be premature. His performances against Charlotte and Golden State down the stretch were a big reason the Pistons won those games. When they blew late leads against New Jersey, Oklahoma City and Chicago, a big reason they struggled to score in those fourth quarters is because it wasn’t clear who the go-to player would be. Everyone looked tentative, passive and too unselfish.
The Pistons have plenty of capable options late in games, which is a good thing, but seeing Hamilton step up and perform well in final periods so far this season has been a positive for the team and a reason that Hamilton, either as a productive Piston or as productive trade bait, shouldn’t be written off just yet.
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