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Rodney Stuckey shows a couple Billups-esque flashes in Pistons win over Milwaukee

Perhaps the most unfair thing to happen to Rodney Stuckey during his NBA career has been the tendency to want to compare him to his predecessor, Chauncey Billups. They aren’t, and probably will never be, similar players, so expecting Stuckey to morph into a quicker, more athletic incarnation of Billups is totally unreasonable.

Now that that’s out of the way, I’m going to compare Stuckey to Billups a little bit.

On the first three possessions of Detroit’s 103-89 win over Milwaukee tonight, Stuckey made some very Billups-like plays, largely because the Pistons used him in the post quite a bit during this game against the smaller Brandon Jennings.

  • On the first possession, Stuckey had the ball in the high post, Luc-Richard Mbah A Moute left Tayshaun Prince to help Jennings and Stuckey found the wide open Prince for a 19-footer.
  • On the next possession, the Pistons again went to Stuckey in the post, this time on the wing. Jon Brockman left Jason Maxiell, who was in the opposite corner out near the 3-point line, and Maxiell immediately cut hard to the basket. Stuckey found him for the dunk.
  • On the third possession, Stuckey walked the ball up, dribbled slightly to his right and then found Rip Hamilton curling off a screen at the opposite elbow in stride for a jumper.

Three plays, three assists for Stuckey, all of them seemingly routine plays. But they stood out because they were the right passes. Billups has made himself into an elite point guard by rarely ever making the wrong pass. He doesn’t get the flashy assists that guys like Jason Kidd or Steve Nash get, he’s not a terror in the open floor like Chris Paul or Deron Williams and he’s not a physical freak of nature like Rajon Rondo, but every year Billups is nearly as efficient and good as all of those more physically gifted players simply because he nearly always passes the ball where he should at precisely the right time.

Stuckey’s major problem as a passer in his career is not that he’s a selfish player and not that he doesn’t know where to go with the ball. He just often knows where to go with it too late. Against Milwaukee, he had one of his best games of the season because he made the right decision virtually every time down the court and he didn’t hesitate. He did a really nice job thinking his way through the game, playing at different paces in different situations, picking his spots to look for the shot himself and set others up and the Pistons as a whole played their best game of the year beginning to end.

They built an early lead with good defense and hot shooting in the first quarter. The bench came in in the second, and although the defense wasn’t as good, Will Bynum, Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva provided sufficient offense. Milwaukee opened the third quarter with seven straight points to cut the Pistons lead to five, but Detroit recovered nicely, avoided another terrible third quarter performance and extended the lead early in the fourth quarter, essentially putting the game out of reach.

Milwaukee played without its best player in Andrew Bogut, as well as a very good starter in Carlos Delfino, so the Pistons took it too a team that was depleted, but it was a good win and a nice bounce-back from a poor second half effort in Memphis Wednesday. The Pistons played with great effort against Milwaukee, they were fun to watch and everyone who stepped onto the court was active. The only frustrating takeaway from the game is that if they are capable of playing like this against Milwaukee, they are capable of doing it every night.

Spacing is the key

The Pistons had a lot of success using Stuckey in the post with one exception. Early in the third quarter, Stuckey caught it in the post, got doubled, tried to split the double and picked up his fourth foul on a charge. This possession failed for one simple reason: spacing.

Spacing has killed the Pistons this year. Against, Milwaukee, it was really good with only a few exceptions. Two Stuckey post plays highlight the importance. In one of the plays described above, Stuckey found Maxiell for a dunk in the opening moments because of great spacing. Maxiell was in the opposite corner. Prince and Hamilton were outside the 3-point line. Ben Wallace was at the opposite elbow/wing region. When Brockman left Maxiell and Maxiell cut, there was too much distance for any of the other defenders to recover quickly enough.

One of the early possessions in the third quarter was the polar opposite. Prince was closer to Stuckey when he tossed him the ball in the post, so Prince’s man disrupted the play slightly, even though Stuckey did end up catching the ball cleanly. Then, a double came from Ersan Ilyasova, who was guarding Maxiell. As Stuckey tried to dribble away from the double team, Wallace’s man, Drew Gooden, also closed in quickly and forced Stuckey into a charge. Why was the defense able to collapse on Stuckey so quickly and eliminate any passing lanes? Because Prince, Wallace and Maxiell were all within a few feet of each other. None were a threat to catch the ball and score, none were a threat to make a cut to the basket since they were all in each other’s way.

Stuckey is bigger than many point guards in the league. If the Pistons pay attention to where they are spaced on the floor, they might have a different look that appears to be effective, or at least offers some intrigue for their offense, which often gets stagnant.

So … thanks for that, Drew Gooden

Drew Gooden shot nine shots from 15-feet out or more, several of them contested or with plenty of time on the shot clock. Needless to say, he shot the ball poorly, finshing 4-for-14 on the night.

There’s a reason Gooden, who has been a pretty good rebounder throughout his career, is currently on his ninth team in nine seasons. He was a big help to the Pistons tonight. Milwaukee’s offense never found any sort of cohesion, and Gooden continuously taking poor shots was a big factor.

The Thrill isn’t gone

With some poor performances after returning from injury, many began to wonder if Bynum had lost his trademark quickness. The last two games, however, have given hope that Bynum is close to getting back to being his bundle-of-energy self.

He scored 13 points with four assists and just one turnover off the bench for Detroit, and had a highlight-reel reverse layup where he hung in the air, avoided a Bucks defender and spun the ball high off the glass on the other side of the rim for the finish. Bynum did seem to tweak his ankle again late, but he walked it off and finished the game, so hopefully it’s nothing to worry about.

T-Mac not out of the injury woods

Tracy McGrady had a couple of vintage moments, elevating over people for trademark T-Mac dunks in the last week. He’s also talked about being pain-free in his knee.

Then, after playing six forgettable minutes in the first half against Milwaukee, cameras caught McGrady on the bench getting his left knee massaged by Arnie Kander. After halftime, McGrady didn’t return to the bench, and Fox Sports Detroit reported that it was because of “sore muscles.” Definitely not the knee. Probably. Hopefully.

Maybe it was premature to get too hyped about McGrady’s growing productivity. Maybe minor setbacks are bound to happen throughout this process, and all this was was a minor setback. But unfortunately, every time McGrady sustains an injury, even a minor one, fans are going to fear the worst. Hopefully he gets back on the court for Sunday’s game against one of his former teams, the Knicks.

Speaking of the Knicks …

It would really behoove the Pistons to beat the struggling Knicks at home Sunday. If they don’t, they have a pretty tough three-game stretch coming up: at Orlando, at Miami, home vs. Orlando. But if they beat New York and maybe even steal one out of those three games vs. the Magic/Heat, the schedule is a little friendlier the following week or so with Houston, New Orleans, Minnesota and Toronto.


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  • Nov 27, 20108:41 am
    by detroitpcb


    i’m waiting for laser’s comment that Stuckey cannot pass or manage an offense.

  • Nov 27, 20108:41 am
    by nuetes


    “..so the Pistons took it to a team that was depleted..”
    Did they? I mean the Pistons got smoked on the glass, especially the offensive glass. Gave up so many second chance points it got comical. They turned it over 15 times. They committed 22 fouls. The Bucks took 15 more shots and 9 more free throws. If both these teams shot an identical percentage the Pistons would have been blown out.
    The difference was the Pistons were hitting shots left and right. It was amazing. The Bucks couldn’t buy a bucket. In fact the Bucks have such bad credit they can’t even take out a loan to buy a bucket. That is the most pathetic offense I’ve ever witnessed. Nobody knew what to do with the ball. Whoever took the shot was going to miss it. They weren’t getting to the hoop and it was all jump shots. What is Gooden doing taking those jumpers? And Illyasova took some of the most jacked shots I’ve seen. They have some issues.
    How about Rip Hamilton? He was coming off screens and hitting his shots. His favorite pass was wide open all night for him. It’s great seeing some vintage Rip. Games like that cause me to rethink trading him. I’d love to keep Rip if he would play well, but those games seem to be so rare these days. The team seems to feed off of Rip as well. He’s had 4 Ripesque (shot well) games this year and the Pistons are 3-1 in those games, with the lone loss being a 1 pointer to OKC. The Pistons might be better when Rip plays well than any other player on the team. Good news against the Bucks though, everybody played well, on offense, which caused all the other facets of the game they lost to go unnoticed.

  • Nov 27, 201010:08 am
    by Patrick Hayes


    Yeah, they did. The Pistons get killed on the boards pretty much any game, win or lose, and Milwaukee is fourth in the league in rebounding, so win or lose, there was a good chance the Pistons would get out-rebounded.
    As for the shots, yeah, you’re right, the Bucks got more shots up. But seriously, did you think they were getting good shots? Gooden and Maggette had pretty atrocious shot selection. Jennings needed 22 shots to get his 25 points. It’s not like Milwaukee was just getting great looks and missing them. The Pistons defense forced them into taking really poor shots all night. They got offensive rebounds and second chances because that’s what the Bucks do. But Detroit took it to a really good defensive team last night.

  • Nov 27, 201012:37 pm
    by JoshB


    Good article, especially the part about spacing. I really think that fact gets lost sometimes when we’re worrying about the deficiencies of this team. There are times where it appears that players would like to make a pass, but everybody is so poorly spaced that either they can’t make the pass, or it’s way to easy for the defender to recover.

  • Nov 27, 201012:52 pm
    by nuetes


    The Pistons defense didn’t force Milwaukee into anything. The Bucks are just horrible offensively. I mean bad, really bad. They couldn’t get a good shot off against the Knicks. That’s how pathetic they are. They are by far and away the worst shooting team in the NBA. And that is partly also why they are in the top 5 in both offensive rebounds and total rebounds – because there are so many misses in games they play. I don’t necessarily equate having a hot shooting night with putting on a beat down. Shooting comes and goes, but like the Bucks creating possessions, defending, and rebounding are something you can bring every night. Unfortunately for the Bucks a hot night shooting is anything over 43%.
    I’m just saying if you want to win consistently you have to win the possession battle. It doesn’t guarantee you wins, but over the course of 82 games if you win the possession battle you will win more games than not. A hot shooting night like last night isn’t going to happen as often. It’s more fluky, as is losing when you gain about 20 more possessions like the Bucks did last night.

  • Nov 27, 20104:01 pm
    by Rodman4Life


    I just hope last night’s good feeling for the Pistons doesn’t cause them to lose focus or let their guard down against the Knicks on Sunday.

  • Nov 28, 20104:04 am
    by Laser


    @pcb: so the guy had a good game after two consecutive playmaking abortions, and he actually took advantage of his physical mismatch for once… 15 games into the season. and let’s not forget that the guy collected his fifth foul halfway through the third quarter, and plenty of credit for this win goes to your favorite piston will bynum for stepping in and keeping things going (you picked a hell of a night to put on your kneepads for stuckey, considering that bynum had a better true shooting percentage, got to the line more, made all his free throws, made the one three he took, and had a better assist-turnover ratio). i’m not some reactionary bozo who’s going to look at one game and either throw a party or jump off a cliff. i’ve been watching this guy for hundreds of games. stuckey needs to be held to a higher standard than anyone else on the team, and one (1) good game against one of the absolute worst team performances i’ve seen in my entire life means nothing. let’s see him string together a few similar performances before we throw a parade…
    and i’ve got a similar feeling towards the game. i mean, sure, they should feel better about it than, say, losing to the bucks. but god how far we’ve fallen. was this game really something to feel good about?? i’ll admit it was the first game all season that i think the team actually played well, but it’s pathetic that we’re reduced to having to celebrate the ability to compete against the worst teams in the league. take away a mediocre team’s best player, and the pistons have a chance! and besides just missing bogut and delfino, this was just the single worst team performance i can remember off the top of my head. the bucks played so bad it hurt me to watch; i was genuinely embarrassed for them.
    i don’t want to take too much away from the pistons, who played a good game for the first time all season and earned their first decisive win of the season. they moved the ball, moved well without the ball, they played well for once. but it’s not like they were doing anything particularly right on defense; the bucks’ offense was just a disaster. they took a lot of terrible shots, and that kept them from being able to set up their defense. and we were just plain hitting our shots, which isn’t a bad thing, but it’s not reliable. tay was taking jumpers and couldn’t miss, rip was hitting all his j’s, and dishing assists like stuckey is supposed to. we did get an unusual number of easy baskets, something i’ve grown unaccustomed to, but we were hitting all our jumpers. shots that aren’t going to fall like that most nights.
    i had an interesting observation watching the game: these bucks felt like a bizarro version of our pistons. they had the point guard who didn’t seem to have any interest in getting his teammates involved and was just trying to get his own shots for the most part (jennings to our stuckey), the stretch four (ilyasova to our villanueva) no real inside presence whatsoever, and most notably a bunch of wing guys who didn’t seem to make much sense on the floor (only theirs were guys like salmons, mbah-a-moute and corey maggette instead of hamilton, gordon and prince). so they were like a worse version of us. it was weird. gooden could and should have been a factor if he was aggressive; i don’t know that we would have had an answer for him if he was on, but he just took bad long jumpers all night. delfino would have been a problem too, the way he’s been playing for them. but aside from being the worse team, they played some awfully terrible ball.
    i know i’m only going to bolster my reputation around here as a negative nancy, but the way the bucks played tonight, there isn’t a team in the league that they could have beaten. not the kaman/davis-less clippers, not the three-win sixers, nobody. if i’ve ever seen a worse game by an NBA team, i can’t remember it. and that includes our beloved “Goin’ to Sleep” pistons (“time-to-go-to-sleep!”). but the bottom line is a win against this bucks team is absolutely meaningless. the only thing that matters at all is how we play against good teams. we still haven’t beaten one that had a winning record. if you’re the type to celebrate a win like this, i’m sure a dose of reality won’t stop you, but the only standard by which this was a “good” win is that it was one the bucks certainly did not deserve. but the simple fact that anyone could get genuinely excited about this win is depressing.

  • Nov 28, 20104:53 am
    by Laser


    @nuetes: no real surprise on the rip thing. i mean, he’s been struggling this year, yet we haven’t touched taking him out of the starting lineup. and he’s a shooting guard (“shooting” being the operative word) who’s used to being the #1 option on offense, so he’s going to take his shots. add to that the fact that he’s best when coming off a screen to catch and shoot, and that’s all you need to know. if he’s hitting his shots, you can bet the ball is moving and bodies are moving. if he’s missing his shots, you can bet he’s spending a lot of time creating his own shot, something he sucks at. and since he’s a born shooter, no matter how much he misses he’s going to keep shooting it. other guys will try to affect the game in different ways when their shot’s not falling, but the guy’s primarily a shooter, so if his shots aren’t falling, it’s going to be bad, bad news for us.
    as for your “second thoughts” on trading him, you at least must acknowledge that one of our shooting guards absolutely must go, right? on a night where stuckey played just 28 minutes, rip played even fewer than that, and t-mac only 6, ben gordon still managed just 23.5 and took FIVE shots. five. our best shooter. this situation is untenable. so yeah, maybe rip doesn’t absolutely need to be the one we trade, but one of these guys has got to go. we’ll never EVER get consistent production out of a backcourt that includes stuckey, rip and gordon. rip’s been averaging 4 shots below his career average, which has been crazy steady at around 15. gordon has been averaging about ten shots as a piston (a number inflated by his starts when rip was injured), after averaging 15-16 his previous four years in chicago. these guys are shooters. that’s what they’re here for. their respective minutes are WAY down from their usual numbers, and they’re two of our top three highest paid players. something has to give. i don’t care if rip shows glimmers of his old self or if they both go off on the same night once in a blue moon (has it even happened since last year’s opener??).
    fun fact: in games where gordon didn’t start, he’s gotten up fewer than ten shots 8/13 times. in four of the remaining five he got up exactly 10 or 11. only once did he reach his career average. in the one game where gordon started and rip came off the bench, rip only managed 27 minutes and 7 shots, almost identical to the norm for gordon as piston (in a game where stuckey did not play, no less). and god knows we didn’t sign gordon for his defense/passing/good looks. we brought him in to shoot. so obviously something’s got to give.
    @hayes: i don’t think the pistons played bad defense, but i didn’t feel like the bucks’ shot selection was really much of a reflection on how good the defense was. i think it had more to do with the bucks being the worst offensive team in the league by a mile. and that’s with bogut and delfino, arguably their #2 and #3 options. it’s a wonder they scored any points at all. after jennings, who are their offensive options? salmons, maggette, ilyasova, gooden? slim pickens, there. maggette and gooden laid serious eggs, and nobody looked particularly good. they were just running around randomly, moving the ball to and fro, settling for bad shot after bad shot. matter of fact, they looked eerily like the pistons have for most of the season, which is probably why it dawned on me how similarly bad these teams are.
    @nuetes again: you’re totally right about hot shooting. i mean, the shots just sometimes fall and sometimes they don’t. it’s not dependable, and that observation makes me think you’re probably very astute (not that i ever thought otherwise). i’m very impressed with the observation. it’s an advanced perspective on basketball, something sorely lacking on forums like this. sometimes guys just have it, sometimes they don’t. tonight tayshaun had it, rip had it, charlie too. shot after shot. there have been plenty of nights where we got similar looks and they didn’t fall. you just can’t depend on hitting 53% of your shots to win. but there are so many intangibles, and i can tell you get it. shooting isn’t something you hang your hat on, and it’s just about all we have. you don’t have a good formula when it all comes down to: make most of your shots and you just might win, shoot a normal percentage and you don’t stand a chance.

  • Nov 28, 201010:59 am
    by JoshB


    @ laser
    I don’t think anybody is being a “reactionary bozo”, but the guy had a good game. The fact is that right now this has not been a good team, so when they actually take advantage of another teams terrible play it’s still a good thing. Had the pistons lost with the way the bucks played you would be harping about how terrible they are because of losing to such a bad team. Yes they shot the lights out, but a lot of those shots were easy shots too. Aren’t they supposed to take advantage of what the defense gives them? Of course I don’t expect them to shoot like this every night, and no you cannot hang your hat on shooting, but I was personally more satisfied with seeing good spacing and ball/player movement. Lack of movement has been a problem that has plagued this team for years, and it has only gotten worse, so I appreciate when I see that they are capable of fixing it. I also find it funny to say somebody has on kneepads for stuckey, and then back that opinion up by pulling out Hollinger stats like ts%. It would be just as easy to pull out +/- for stuckey and bynum to make the opposite case. One doesn’t need to fail to recognize the other played well.

  • Nov 28, 201011:25 am
    by nuetes


    How many wins can a team accumulate by only beating teams under .500? And the Bucks have no excuses for being under .500. They do everything right. They play the right way. They led the league in possessions created last season, but shot 43%. This season they lead the league by a mile in possessions created, but they are shooting even worse – 41%. They are 3rd in d-rating, allowing the 2nd fewest ppg, they are top 5 in rebounding, they create turnovers, don’t turn it over, block shots, and even more importantly they defend without fouling, which prevents easy points for the opposition. The Bucks are perfect in almost every phase of the game but putting the ball through that little hoop.
    I stress that possessions lead to points. You can’t score without possession of the ball, and you give yourself a better chance of winning game in game out by winning the possession battle, but man the Bucks are so sorry on offense. It wasn’t much better last season, but it’s downright pathetic this season. I’ve never seen a worse offense. Their o-rating is 30th in the league, last in ppg. They are bad. If they were just average on offense they could be one of the best teams in the NBA. Watching their offense is painful. They don’t seem to run any sets. They just watch Jennings dribble or pass it around until someone ends up jacking up a contested shot. They can’t get anybody open. Nobody can hit a shot. It’s just ugly. The Bucks are killing my theory.
    @laser – thanks i guess. the possession thing is sort of my agenda. if the Pistons start winning the possession battles i’d start feeling a lot more comfortable, but if you lose that battle on a routine basis your not giving yourself a good chance of winning outside of having a hot shooting night, or holding the opposition to a bad shooting night, but it doesn’t take much to force the Bucks to shoot badly. The Pistons are currently holding their opponents to a 46.4 FG% so losing the possession battle is not something the Pistons can afford to do and still win very many games, which is why they won’t win very many games.

  • Nov 29, 20103:52 am
    by Laser


    @josh: plenty of people act like reactionary bozos when stuckey has a good game. it’s not hard to spot. he had one good game out of the last four. 7 assists against the bucks, 6 in the other three out of the last four combined. SIX! COMBINED! what more is there to say? i’m not going to take away credit for a good game (and “good” is what it was. for the way he’s been treated as a piston and for all the jabbering we hear about his “physical advantage” over smaller (but let’s face it: better) PGs, 7 assists should be a baseline expectation), but i’m not going to go crazy when he plays to the organization’s expectations once in a blue moon.
    and as for the tp%, i’ll admit i misused the term. i was confused. looking it up, it sounds pretty complicated. once you said hollinger, i knew something was fishy. what i was trying to say is that he scored more points per shot attempted than stuckey. i just took shot attempts and divided them by total points. i’m not a stats guy, but “how much did he shoot/how much did he score” is useful. shows efficiency, decision making. more useful than saying, “well stuckey scored more points!” and more useful than +/-, which can be highly misleading because of all the outside factors involved. all i was doing there was pointing out that the guy, who’s been killing bynum (a bit player in this rotation) after all these losses bynum had nothing to do with, picked a bad time to get all excited about one performance by stuckey. if bynum didn’t step in there and run the offense, the story of the game very well could have been: “stuckey’s foul trouble costs pistons an easy win.” that’s all. i haven’t been overly supportive of bynum this season, because he hasn’t been particularly great thus far, but he’s so drastically marginalized in this system, it’s hard for him to have any sort of effect on a game. don’t forget i’ve nominated him multiple times to be cut out of the rotation to make room for daye. but i guess it’s more fun to pretend i’m irrationally enamored with the guy.
    @nuetes: the bucks played perhaps the worst game in NBA history. it was the first time i’ve seen them play this season, and they were without their best player and two of their top three or four scoring options. i love their team on paper when healthy, but they played so bad it made my head spin. if they normally play like this, it’s a wonder they have any wins at all. they didn’t do a single thing “the right way.” i was astonished at how bad they played. one problem is that they just don’t have good players. they have players that SHOULD be good but aren’t. in theory i like salmons, maggette, ilyasova, and even gooden sometimes. but these guys should be bit players, not brandon jennings’s ENTIRE support system. they all played bad and took bad shots, and these are the 2-5 best players on the team as long as bogut and delfino are out.
    imagine a healthy bogut on the pistons. we’re suddenly probably a perfectly average team in the east. sixth seed or something, even with the worst point play in the league. so when you take him away from a team that’s (much?) worse than we are without him, what more do you need to know? but it’s a mystery to me how they could be quite as bad as they were against the stones.
    i definitely think fundamentals, things you can count on night-in and night-out are key to sustained success. and that’s what i’m focused on too: sustained success. which is why i don’t root for the pistons. i want them to play well; i could care less if they win. wins are meaningless, because this team can’t truly succeed in the big picture. they need to work on things like defense, rebounding, things good teams hang their hat on, before they can have real success. anyone can hit all their shots on a given night, but it doesn’t mean they’re any good. it’s the NBA, people can shoot. but i’d feel better about a team that’s getting quality looks and missing than happening to hit tough looks left and right. that said, i do think the possession battle is a lost cause with this particular team. but it’s a nice thought.

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