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It was Retro Night at the Palace as the Pistons end 11 game losing streak to Cleveland

Apologies for getting this posted late. Had internet issues last night.

Only once this season have Pistons starters Rip Hamilton, Rodney Stuckey and Tayshaun Prince each shot over 50 percent in a game and each scored in double figures. And although the trio was good in that game, a 103-89 win over Milwaukee in November, their production was nothing like it was in Sunday’s 102-92 win over Cleveland Sunday.

Plenty of times, two of those three have had a good game while the third struggled. And a few times, all three of them played terribly in the same game. That, along with the whole “veterans vs. upstarts” alleged rivalries that have been alluded to at times this season, has led to a popular conclusion: Stuckey, Hamilton and Prince just plain don’t compliment each other well as individual talents.

What they proved on Sunday is that there’s absolutely no reason they can’t play well together, share the offensive responsibilities and, most importantly, help the Pistons win games. First, check out the statlines:

  • Stuckey: 24 points, 6 rebounds, 11 assists, 3 turnovers, 8-of-14 shooting
  • Hamilton: 27 points, 2 rebounds, 3 assists, 10-of-16 shooting
  • Prince: 20 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 block, 7-of-14 shooting

The production was certainly important. The Pistons are dependent (Dependent, that is, if you’re actually watching the games hoping the team wins. I get that some fans are already playing “how can we get Kyrie Irving/Jared Sullenger?” game) on those three to be productive players if they are going to have any shot at competing on a nightly basis.

It started with Stuckey. One of the criticisms of his game that pops up pretty frequently is that many people don’t feel he’s a playmaker. I don’t think anyone could’ve watched this game and come away thinking that Stuckey was anything but a playmaker. He constantly attacked the basket. He looked to exploit his size advantage against the Cavs’ small point guards. He pushed the ball after misses. He pushed the ball after makes. With only one or two exceptions, he made really good decisions as far as whether to pull the ball back out if nothing was there or to get all the way to the basket. And most importantly, he found guys all over the court. He found Charlie Villanueva and Hamilton for open threes on strong cross-court passes. He found Ben Wallace cutting to the basket. He got the line. And as the guy primarily defending Mo Williams and Daniel Gibson, he held them to a combined 9-of-27 shooting. Games like this where Stuckey tantalizingly shows off all of the things he’s able to do on the court make it really hard to make a case that the Pistons are wrong to give him such an extended chance to succeed. He’s putting together easily the best season of his career. The team needs him to be a nightly threat to be this kind of terror. That’s the last step for him. Do these things on a nightly basis. And this season, he’s given more indication that he’s close to being able to do that then any other point in his career.

And as for Hamilton and Prince? If you allow yourself to think back for a moment to the heights of the Pistons success, Hamilton and Prince did all of the things that made them such key players for those teams. Hamilton was a bundle of energy. He didn’t force too many shots off the dribble, which has been a problem for him the last few seasons. He got to the spots on the floor where he’s most comfortable, and he knocked down shots.

Prince was a stabilizing influence. It’s obvious Prince is more comfortable in a halfcourt offense. We know Stuckey is desperate to have the Pistons play at a faster pace. What we saw for the first time this season was some real effort at compromise on this front. Prince ran with Stuckey. He allowed Stuckey to push the ball, he maintained great spacing all night, giving Stuckey more room to find passing lanes. And when it was time to slow things down, Prince was always right there, steadying things almost anonymously, getting big baskets and just simply doing what Prince has always done in his career.

I don’t know that this win is very significant. After all, Cleveland is not a good team. But I think if I get to the point writing these recaps where I have to say, “OK … they won, but the Cavs are bad, so the win was insignificant and what if it costs them lottery balls and blah blah blah,” it will really quickly take all enjoyment out of doing this. The Pistons won. They played beautiful basketball all night. They all actually looked like they got along and like each other. If you’re at the point where you’re so frustrated with the season that you want to check out and pray for the lottery, I ain’t mad at cha. But personally, I just want to watch good basketball, and the Pistons were very good Sunday.

Give John Kuester some credit

Teams lose games. Coaches get blamed. It happens. John Kuester is nothing special in that regard. If the Pistons continue to lose and look really out of sorts in the process, he’s ultimately going to receive even more criticism.

But credit where it’s due: he’s having a pretty good week. First, after a really bad loss to Miami, he alluded to some sweeping changes on the way. Then, I assume after cooling down, his actual changes to the rotation were pretty minor. Some would even say boring.

But let’s be real: the easiest thing to do right now would be to make a drastic change. It would appease fans who certainly want a drastic change just for the sake of change. But after watching the Pistons against Cleveland, here’s how the lineup/rotation tweaks have took shape:

  • Will Bynum is not playing. It sucks for Bynum, who is a fun and likable player. But there’s just not enough minutes for everyone and Bynum wasn’t having the impact in the minutes he was getting compared to what he did the previous two seasons. His minutes are going to other backcourt players, who to this point have been more productive than Bynum.
  • Greg Monroe and Tracy McGrady are coming into the game earlier. Again, this is subtle. But it’s allowing Monroe to get some minutes next to Wallace, who gets his breather when Villanueva comes in. Monroe then can get in the flow of the game playing against a power forward rather than immediately coming in for Wallace and having to guard the opposing center. As for McGrady, the Pistons just have a nice flow when he’s on the floor. He got a chance to play some extended minutes next to Stuckey Sunday, and the results were good. McGrady had a couple of nice passes to Stuckey (who moves without the ball extremely well, he just has the ball so much we don’t often get a chance to see it), and getting him in the game and loose earlier can’t be a bad thing as he continues to rebuild his confidence and look better on that knee.

Those certainly aren’t sweeping changes that are going to satisfy a crowd demanding a major trade for about three years now. But Kuester is coaching for wins. Fans might want to see more of Monroe or Austin Daye or Bynum or whoever. Kuester wants to have a job. So as a guy probably coaching under some pressure, these were nice subtle changes that have made a positive impact through two games. They aren’t going to suddenly turn the Pistons into a playoff team, but playing Daye more minutes certainly isn’t going to do that either.

But what about in-game adjustments? As the Pistons tendency for poor third quarters suggests, adjustments have been a weakness for the Pistons under Kuester this season. But check out some of the things the Pistons did against Cleveland that worked:

Cleveland was close in the first half because they ran on made and missed shots. Several times, they used their quickness advantage to beat the Pistons down the court and get quick shots or get fouled. Kuester responded at halftime by going small. He started Ben Gordon for Jason Maxiell in the second half. Cleveland went on an early 7-0 run in the third to tie the game, and it looked like another “here we go again” moment. But Detroit responded with an 11-0 run of its own and out-scored the Cavs 27-21 in the quarter. Gordon struggled shooting the ball all night, but he was disruptive defensively, picking up three steals and helping keep Gibson, Williams and Ramon Sessions in check.

Prince guarded J.J. Hickson. After the whole Michael Curry small ball experiments with Prince at the four, I think we all remember that Prince is not exactly comfortable at that position. But against Cleveland, he did a nice job on Hickson, who was a non-factor in his 16 minutes.

Kuester unleashed Stuckey a bit. Kuester, it’s obvious by now, is a half-court coach. He seems much more comfortable with Prince running the offense. Stuckey is an open-court player. He’s spent three years in Detroit stating his preference to play faster and, in general, the few times he’s been given the chance to play faster, he’s had good games. Kuester deserves some credit for not reigning Stuckey in and not giving too much of the offensive responsibilities to Prince even though Prince has excelled in that role the last few games. The Pistons shouldn’t be a running team. But with athletes like Stuckey, they should pick spots to play at a faster tempo. It resulted in Stuckey setting up good shots for many players, particularly Hamilton and Villanueva.

Hopefully, this week is a sign that Kuester is growing more comfortable with this quirky roster and figuring out some ways to take advantage of the matchup problems the Pistons can create.

Ben Wallace was Ben Wallace

I don’t spend much time writing about Wallace anymore because, frankly, he’s just so consistently good that I don’t think it needs pointing out. But he, along with Hamilton and Prince, was part of the “retro” performance I alluded to in the headline. Wallace had 9 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 blocks and a steal. He was an imposing presence inside and a huge reason Cleveland’s guards shot poorly. They may have been getting penetration, but Wallace blocked or altered several shots in his 24 minutes and he continued to show that he’s a great high-post passer and someone the Pistons can comfortably take advantage of on offense.

13 Comments

  • [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Patrick Hayes and PistonPowered Feed, Detroit Pistons. Detroit Pistons said: TrueHoop.com – It was Retro Night at the Palace as the Pistons end 11 game losing streak to Cleveland: http://bit.ly/dEIK7G [...]

  • Dec 6, 20107:27 am
    by gmehl1977

    Reply

    Tayshaun must be looking real good to some contending teams out there. It would be a win win situation because if he doesn’t work out then just cut him lose but the way he has been playing lately i think he is playing to get out of here. Hamilton too but we all know he is going no where. I still keep hoping to wake up to the news that OKC Thunder have traded for Hamilton and Prince has gone has been traded to the Clippers. Pipe dreams :-(

  • Dec 6, 201010:32 am
    by Patrick Hayes

    Reply

    Haha. At least you know those are pipe dreams. Thunder need bigs, not more guards who are shooting less than 40 percent.
    I think the Clippers would do Prince for Baron or for Kaman’s injured ass in a second, but I can’t say that I’d be thrilled to pay Kaman considering he’s been healthy only like twice in the last four seasons.

  • Dec 6, 201010:39 am
    by Brett

    Reply

    Props to Kuester, I have been saying repeatedly, get Rip and BG on the floor together and get them more minutes.  He did this against the Cavs, not just in the second half, but in the first half as well with McGrady playing alongside them and 2 bigs.  Shortening the perimeter rotation  (PG, SG, SF) to five players instead of six was absolutely necessary to get the most out of the five guys playing. Rip obviously shot the ball better and I would imagine that not going to the bench for a full 12 minute second quarter followed by a full halftime will help to keep you in rhythm. 

    I think it also should help our 3rd quarter problems that he gets the starters back in during the first half rather than playing almost 2 separate units with the starters sitting from the end of the 1st until the start of the 3rd and then coming back out ice cold. 

    Finally, while I was very happy with the changes in the rotation, I am trying to keep a level head…looking good against the Cavs (a team that was down by 40 against Minnesota the night before), at home, may not be the best indicator that this new rotation will fix everything.

  • Dec 6, 201012:34 pm
    by Pratik Narula

    Reply

    Although Cavs might not be a good indicator of our rotation and success, the key to this win is our little big three of Stuckey, Hamilton, and Prince. I really want to compare them to the Celtics: Rondo, Ray, and Pierce. The only main difference is that the celtics show this every single night, something that Chauncey Rip and Tay, did back in the glory years. When Stuckey has 10 plus assists we will win! This game he was able to get his offense as well as show his playmaking abilities.
    As far as the bench is concerned, I was happy with the rotation. Ben Gordon has to get around 30 mins, I know he’s struggling, but in the beg. of the season when he was starting, when Hamilton was out, the guy was avg. 20 pts a game. You have to treat both Gordon and Hamilton like Ray, they have to hit there spots off screens and Stuckey has to find them for their shots.
    Moving on, the good part is in our division the Cavs and Bucks are real close to us, record wise, and we can take a jump up to third, if we continue to win. The only question I have is, will we be good enough to get to .500 and really challenge the Bulls and Pacers, who have created a big gap between the other three teams. That will really determine if we can make the playoffs this year or not. All it takes is a couple of win streaks, thats the problem the Pistons r having. They win 2 loose 3. Or win 1 loose 2. They have to start winning 4-5 games in a row. Big test will come how they can perform in the next 3 games on the road. And then we have a 4-game home stance, and we just have to protect home court advantage and continue to win in Detroit, which use to be one of the hardest arenas to win a bball game in, when we were good. I really look for the Pistons to go for a winning streak now. 2 out of the 3 games r def. winnable on the road against Houston and Minnesota, can they challenge New Orleans tho? I guess we can’t look too far in the future..and have to just go game by game.
     

  • Dec 6, 201012:50 pm
    by Patrick Hayes

    Reply

    “I really want to compare them to the Celtics: Rondo, Ray, and Pierce.”

    Don’t do it Pratik! Resist the urge! … too late.

    I appreciate your optimism here, but the Pistons just aren’t equipped to, as you say, “show this every single night.”

    What they did against Cleveland was take advantage of major mismatches size-wise in the backcourt. Cleveland had to give help defensively, and that just created all kinds of crazy openings for the Pistons on offense.

    It was good basketball and a good win. But those mismatches aren’t there to exploit every night for the Pistons. They can certainly be competitive against better teams, but expecting their “little three” to dominate like the Celtics “big three” does is setting yourself up for disappointment.

  • Dec 6, 20101:15 pm
    by nuetes

    Reply

    the Cavs are a bad team, nothing wrong with saying that. Hickson hasn’t panned out and it’s killing them. I sorta expected Hickson to be good for some reason, and figured the Cavs would be better than the Pistons, but it’s not really that close. The Pistons might suck, but the Cavs suck way worse.
     
    I’m down with shortening the rotation, but until Maxiell is out of it I won’t be happy. We don’t have the talent, but I guess you have to make the most of what you have, and playing Maxiell is not achieving that.
     
    Anyways I like the Cavs jersey’s. Seems like they’ve finally found a jersey that should stick. They’ve changed it practically every season. They should keep that jersey around.

  • Dec 6, 20101:28 pm
    by Patrick Hayes

    Reply

    @nuetes:

    I think Lebron leaving impacted Hickson more than anyone else on that team. He can’t really get his own shot, but he’s active and moves without the ball, so LeBron got a ton of easy buckets for him last year.

    LeBron got easy buckets for everyone, but guys like Jamison and Mo Will can kind of create shots for themselves, even if they do it inefficiently. You can’t just give Hickson the ball and let him back his way to the basket or anything like that.

  • [...] Some fantastic observations at Piston Powered about how coach John Kuester tweaked his rotation in Sunday’s win over the Cavaliers. Among the moves: a willingness to use a small lineup, and [...]

  • Dec 6, 20105:03 pm
    by Laser

    Reply

    don’t worry hayes, at least until february i’ll be here to do the “OK … they won, but the Cavs are bad, so the win was insignificant and what if it costs them lottery balls and blah blah blah” thing for you. and i suspect i won’t be alone.

    for the record, i don’t think there’s any good reason rip, tayshaun and stuckey could all have good games on the same night. for one, i think tayshaun is a perpetual threat to have a great game; he tends to do what’s needed of him, so there’s always a way he can contribute. for another, i think it’s perfectly reasonable to expect that two (2) of rip, gordon and stuckey can have a good game at once. it just won’t be all three. like, ever. and there’s just too much invested in these guys for them to be fundamentally unable to thrive at once.

    nice to see stuckey truiy live up to dumars’s expectations once every 21 games. if he played like this every night, he’d warrant the organization’s faith in him. so, uh, let’s keep it up, eh stuck? some franchises don’t have a full-blown joygasm when the guy they’ve been DESPERATELY trying to make the future of the franchise “explodes” for an efficient 24 and 11. i mean, the numbers are good, but his numbers should always look pretty much like that given how much we have riding on him for some reason.

    and, really, there just aren’t many (any?) other matchups where we can manage to find 41 minutes for stuckey, 35 for rip and 31 for BG. so, uh, they all get to pretty much earn their money 3 times every year. whoopee.

  • Dec 6, 20105:13 pm
    by Laser

    Reply

    @pratik/hayes: yeah, uh, it happened once. so why not all get ahead of ourselves?? stuckey’s no rondo, rip’s no ray allen, tayshaun’s no paul pierce. so, er, yeah let’s just be thankful it happened once against a terrible team and move on.
     
    also, can someone please explain to me this desperation to “make the playoffs?” i mean, is it that you want to feel better about the team you support? it’s like when the team went on that 4-2 run at the end of last season. yes they were already mathematically eliminated, but i did not see the purpose of winning those games, since the team as constructed would never see any kind of success. so there was no momentum to be gained, no chemistry to develop, literally nothing for a fan to be happy about. does it make people happy to know that their team is merely “terrible” rather than “one of the very worst teams in the league?” why would that appease anyone? i understand that the players want to have some pride, the team wants playoff revenues, i get why they want all the wins they can get. but if we SQUEEEAK into the playoffs with a bottom seed only to have a 4-game series that’s just a formality and gets us nowhere, all it does is speak to the abject weakness of the eastern conference. in most cases, you make the playoffs and you give yourself a chance, but not in our case. zero percent chance. the team has no potential whatsoever. are you guys just conditioned that making the playoffs beats missing them? i don’t get it.

  • Dec 6, 20107:22 pm
    by Pratik Narula

    Reply

    @hayes/Laser: I wasn’t implying on comparing Boston’s big 3 to ours, but perhaps wanting Stuckey, Rip, and Tay to draw inspiration from them, and to somehow develop this responsibility and carry on their role each and every night as the veterans of the team. Obviously we would be a lot better if we were to add a low-post big, that we had in Rasheed.
    But why wouldn’t we be hopeful for the Pistons to make the playoffs? With the roster that we have, on paper, Rip, Stuckey, Prince, Gordon, Villanueva, Mcgrady, Will Bynum, and even J. Max to some extent can be key players if they were traded to championship teams. Yes we don’t have that one superstar or multiple as many of the top teams do, if you were to look at Boston (Ray, Rondo, Pierce, KG), Orlando (DHoward, Carter, Lewis), or Miami’s big 3, or the Lakers (kobe, Gasol), but Dumars never wanted the Detroit Pistons to be defined as that type of team. I strongly believe that with this roster the Pistons can compete for the 5th or 6th spot, and make a run in the playoffs, obviously they won’t run deep, but you can’t really expect that until Joe D. changes the fundamental beliefs and identity of our organization, and acquire a franchise player who can produce championships. I mean the Lakers after they lost Shaq took 3-4 years to rebuild, this is our second if you don’t count the michael curry era. There’s no point in being so negative or arguing, as it’s way too early in the season after 21 games. Anything can happen in the next 61 games that we have left. Can’t wait for JJ and Terico White to make their come backs and regain form!

  • Dec 6, 20109:01 pm
    by Laser

    Reply

    i’ve long maintained that basically any of our rotation pieces could crack the rotations of contenders given the right role. but the mix is all wrong. it’s like mixing a bunch of flavors that don’t go together. you just can’t make sandwich without bread, not to mention something substantive, whether it be meat or peanut butter. i don’t care how many condiments you have, without certain ingredients it’s not a sandwich; it’s just ketchup, mayonnaise, honey, hoisin, teriyaki, mustard, cranberry sauce, ranch dressing, relish and grey poupon sitting on a plate.
     
    we don’t need a “superstar player.” i don’t want to ask for too much or anything. but how about a point guard? or a front line worth a damn? and for the record, dumars would LOVE a superstar; in fact, he would like one so badly he went out of his way to get ahold of a washed up allen iverson, and he further crowded an already crowded perimeter by signing a washed up tracy mcgrady. it’s just that detroit isn’t a free agent destination, so he just can’t have a superstar unless he drafts the guy.
     
    if you strongly believe the pistons could grab a 5th or 6th seed, then you and i just plain don’t see eye-to-eye and probably never will. as a matter of fact, i might question your sanity. and getting swept out of the playoffs in four non-competitive games (the absolute pinnacle we could ever hope to achieve with this sorry roster) is not a “playoff run,” it’s just a playoff berth. and if you truly want that franchise player, making the playoffs in that fashion is a sure-fire way to make sure that NEVER happens. we lost 43 games and the reward was austin daye; we lost 55 and the reward was greg monroe. neither is anything to hang your hat on, so it’s in our best interest to do a better job losing than we did the previous two seasons, and so far we’re doing a marvelous job!
     
    if we had a feasible chance at even winning one game in the playoffs, i might consider breaking through to be a good thing, but we don’t. i doubt we could make it if we tried, but if we did it would certainly be as a bottom two seed facing a team that’s as good as any in the league. you seem to understand that a deep playoff run can only happen when joe changes the fundamental structure of the team, you’re smart enough to realize he can never achieve that goal without very good draft picks at this point. we can’t afford to go shopping in big-name free agency, and nobody wants to come here for the same amount of money they can get elsewhere (specifically the midlevel exception).
     
    your optimism is fine, but you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. it’s not fun to believe the team you love is one of the worst teams in the league, but that’s the reality some of us have come to accept. “anything” can happen, except this team winning against a good team playing reasonably in line with their potential. i’ve said this before, but in order to beat a consensus playoff team, we would have to play out of our minds AND our opponent would have to play exceptionally poorly. and it sure wouldn’t be sustainable. we just don’t have the personnel or coaching to compete with good teams. it’s sad but true. let’s see what happens in these next 61 games. smart money says we lose about 2/3 of them.

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