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Daye-ng: Austin Daye shows promise, but can’t deliver victory over Heat

Austin Daye is growing up in front of our eyes. Unfortunately, the progress didn’t come quickly enough tonight.

By making the Pistons’ biggest basket and missing the Pistons’ biggest shot against the Heat, in a matter of minutes, Daye showed us how far he has come and how far he has to go.

With the Pistons trailing by one with 2.7 seconds left, John Kuester designed a beautiful play. Tayshaun Prince threw a beautiful inbound pass to a cutting Daye. The rest was anything but beautiful for the Pistons.

Daye missed the dunk, and the Heat escaped with an 88-87 victory. James Jones challenged the shot, and he fouled Daye at least once by pushing Daye’s the gut in the air, and maybe a second time by pushing Daye’s shooting hand. But Daye must get a little stronger, and when he does, he’ll make shots like that, anyway.

The Pistons didn’t play amazingly tonight, but they showed more positive than negative. That would have been easier to stomach if Daye made the final shot, though.

Daye’s disappointing miss came 1:06 after Daye made one of the biggest shots of his career – and he’s already compiled an impressive lists of big shots. The Pistons had finally relented the lead to the charging Heat late in the fourth quarter when Daye received a kick-out pass. He was open, but he stood well behind the 3-point line and Jones was speeding toward him.

Daye paused.

All night, the Heat’s swarming defense and physical play bothered him. He flashed brilliance throughout the game, but his erratic tendencies showed why he’s not ready to shoulder a bigger load yet. Daye turned the ball over three times with sloppy decisions, committed five fouls and missed nine of his first 14 shots.

But by the end of the game, Daye began to play within himself. He minimized his mistakes and stopped letting the Heat bother him. Games like this will aid his growth on a macro level, but it already began to show on a micro level.

So, as Jones flew toward him, Daye took a dribble forward and ducked slightly. Jones sailed right past, and Daye pulled up for what looked like it could have been the game-winning 3-pointer.

Daye will make plenty more plays like that in his career. His future is bright.

But his present is still partially cloudy, even if plenty of sunlight pokes through – a harsh reality for the Pistons tonight.

Ben Gordon was best defensive option on Eddie House

Austin Daye had a chance to be the hero, but the hero was actually Eddie House, who made a pair of free throws with six seconds left for the game’s final points.

House got to the line by putting the ball on the floor and drawing a Ben Gordon foul. House isn’t the most adept at scoring off the dribble, and Gordon bailed him out by fouling. Gordon wasn’t in the best position, and that’s why he fouled. My thought process developed thusly:

  1. Why on earth was Gordon in the game for defense?
  2. Well, I guess you want good free-throw shooters in the game in case you get the rebound.
  3. But making the stop should come first.

At this point, I was pretty upset with John Kuester for letting the game slip away by playing Gordon. But after reflecting, Gordon was the best man to guard House. Who would have been better?

Tracy McGrady? That would have left Gordon on Mike Miller, an even more unfavorable scenario.

Daye? Daye’s best defensive attribute, his length, would barely bother House’s high-arcing shot. Plus, that would have left Gordon on the much-taller James Jones.

Tayshaun Prince? He had to guard LeBron.

Will Bynum? He’s awful at following his man around off-ball screens, which is House’s specialty.

Gordon is far from great defensively, but putting him on House was sadly the Pistons’ best chance of stopping the Heat. Detroit really missed the injured Rodney Stuckey on that play.

Tracy McGrady falls two rebounds short of triple-double

Tracy McGrady played a fantastic all-around game, finishing with 14 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds.

This was the second time McGrady flirted with a triple-double this season. He had 11 points, 11 assists and nine rebounds against the Jazz earlier this month.

He’s forcing his shot more often, and that’s why he made just 6-of-17 attempts tonight. But when he has double-digit assists, I can live with that. The question becomes how he can handle games like this.

With the Pistons’ rotation shortened to eight, McGrady played a season-high 38 minutes. Are his legs ready for that increased load?

Inflated rebounding

I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a team as reluctant to try for offensive rebounds as the Heat were tonight. I certainly have never noticed it before.

Teams must balance crashing the offensive glass and getting back on defense, and every coach handles that tradeoff differently. But the Heat took it to an extreme tonight.

On the Heat’s third possession, they had three offensive rebounds. After that, the Heat grabbed 19.4 percent of available offensive rebounds. For context, no team has ever had a season with an offensive-rebounding percentage so low.

In fact, all nine of the Heat’s offensive rebounds came on plays where trying to crash the offensive glass wouldn’t have made securing the offensive rebound any more likely – seven after missed 3-pointers and two after blocked shots.

The two biggest benefactors of the Miami’s strategy were Austin Daye (nine defensive rebounds, two offensive rebounds) and Tracy McGrady (eight defensive rebounds, one offensive rebound).*

*A player whose rebounding wasn’t inflated was Chris Wilcox, who played with tremendous energy in his first game off the bench in 11 contests. Wilcox grabbed 10 rebounds, eight offensive. If John Kuester was considering starting Austin Daye regularly, not just because of this matchup, Wilcox will certainly make him think twice.

The Heat’s strategy was probably sound, and it appeared to work.

They’re not a good offensive-rebounding team, ranking 22nd in the NBA in offensive-rebounding percentage. Plus, they were missing their two leaders in total offensive rebounds – Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade. So, a high effort to get offensive rebounds might not have paid dividends.

Focusing on getting back on defense worked. Miami held the Pistons to 38-percent shooting.

Erick Spoelstra is a heck of a coach. In the unlikely even Pat Riley returns to the bench, Spoelstra would become my top choice for the Pistons’ coach next year.

Ben Gordon excels as offensive centerpiece

It’s no coincidence Ben Gordon had his best true-shooting percentage (.622) in 16 days during the same game he got the most shots (16) in 32 days.

Gordon needs touches to get into a rhythm, and when in the flow of the game, can take a lot of difficult shots for the Pistons, like he did tonight. When he does that, everyone else becomes more efficient.

No doubt boosted by the absence of Rodney Stuckey and Richard Hamilton, Gordon led the Pistons with 21 points. He had a pep in his step that I haven’t seen from him in a little while. There have been recent games when Gordon has been the primary scoring option, but it’s been quite some time since he knew ahead of time he’d fill that role.

Going forward, the Pistons will need a (read: one) capable scorer with the ball in his hands to complement a frontcourt of Greg Monroe, Austin Daye and Jonas Jerebko. Gordon, Stuckey, Hamilton, Prince, Villanueva and Bynum are all candidates to fill that role.

Gordon made a strong case tonight for it be him.

14 Comments

  • Jan 28, 201110:48 pm
    by Fennis

    Reply

    Kuester is quietly a genius at drawing up closing shots. Kudos.
     
    I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that this game included some of the most overtly biased officiating I’ve seen in quite some time. Although we didn’t pull out the win, I was really impressed that the players didn’t get discouraged by the calls. T-Mac’s even keel seems to be contagious. Even the dominant Piston teams of the past decade had problems sustaining focus while in the process of getting “Donagied”.

  • Jan 28, 201110:50 pm
    by Patrick Hayes

    Reply

    @Fennis:
    It’s Lebron and the Heat. I’m sure opposing teams including the Pistons aren’t fazed by one-sided officiating anymore when they play them.

  • Jan 28, 201110:55 pm
    by gordbrown

    Reply

    It’s one thing to know that Lebron is never going to get fouled when he’s guarding you and you won’t be able to get out of the way fast enough to avoid fouling Lebron. It’s another thing to have a foul that doesn’t affect a shot in the least called at one end and then have a deliberate foul at the other end missed allowing precious seconds to tick off the clock and then have a player come into a play way late and allowed to use both hands to lay two fouls on a player to stop a play. Plus games in Utah and New Jersey also decided by bad calls in the closing seconds. Pistons just keep getting screwed.

  • Jan 28, 201111:11 pm
    by gordbrown

    Reply

    Oh and I will add being without one of your best players because of a “superstar” allowed to injure him on a dirty play with no call in the previous game.

  • [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by PistonPowered Feed, Patrick Hayes. Patrick Hayes said: From @PistonPowered: Daye-ng: Austin Daye shows promise, but can’t deliver victory over Heat http://bit.ly/fRpcTC [...]

  • Jan 28, 201111:21 pm
    by Alan

    Reply

    Foul or not, Daye’s got convert.  Also, Prince missed a potential game winner and Gordon and Villanueva missed shots in their wheelhouse near the end too.  They’re playing hard and Kuester’s right, they’re a better team than their record shows (if only slightly).

  • Jan 29, 20118:35 am
    by detroitpcb

    Reply

    The young fella just missed that dunk. Pass was a little off but he should not have let that little adjustment bother him, nor did the foul cause the miss. He just hit the rim with the ball. Needs to get stronger at the rim but that will be there by next year.

    Daye had some really poor turnovers early in the game and also missed some open shots but he played some great defense on LeBron. On 8 possessions against Daye LeBron made two easy layups driving right (no help came for Daye), he made two difficult outside shots, he missed two shots, and Daye stripped him twice – not a bad showing against the King. Daye played LeBron better than prince did. Speaking of Prince – this easily could have been the Piston’s game if he hits some shots. He was missing wide open looks all night.

    Gordon is the biggest dunce on the team. Jumping early on Eddie House. And you want to talk about the great game he had – but just before Daye hit that triple to put the Pistons up Gordon missed an easy shot in the clutch – i would much rather have Austin Daye shooting the ball at the end of the game than Ben Gordon.

    That was a very nice option on that final play drawn up by Q. But on defense i don’t even have Gordon in the game – I go with T-Mac, Prince, Daye, Wilcox, and Monroe.

    Daye is ready for a bigger role and the more situations like last night he is put in, the better.

  • Jan 29, 201110:32 am
    by Fennis

    Reply

    @DF
     
    We’ve noted Daye’s deficiencies, but I agree that it’s certainly encouraging to see a young guy who embraces the crunch time shot. We haven’t had that in since Mr. Big Shot who wasn’t so big by the time he left. Stuckey has a lot of heart and doesn’t shy away from the spotlight, but he doesn’t revel in it like Daye. This is promising.
     
    The only thing I’d quibble with is your assessment of Gordon and the idea that we need an “offensive centerpiece” this year. My sense is that we play our absolute best when we move the ball on offense – a fundamental that does not appear to be a part of Gordon’s basketball DNA. When Gordon becomes the centerpiece it means everyone else is standing around as he dribbles, and dribbles, and dribbles to ultimately either take a bad shot that inexplicably goes it or turn the ball over due to his impaired court vision. Unless you’re a superstar talent putting up 35-40 every few nights that is not winning basketball. It’s certainly not team basketball. Without a superstar, the Pistons have to play a team game on both sides of the ball and I agree  that this style is not conducive to Gordon’s strengths. The question then is whether the Pistons of ’10-’11 are better playing team ball on O without a centerpiece or with BG doing his me against the world show. I gotta go with the former.

  • Jan 29, 201112:00 pm
    by Dan Feldman

    Reply

    Fennis, I don’t think the calls were biased, but you make a good point about McGrady being even-keeled. The Pistons’ whining always seemed to compound as everyone did it.

  • Jan 29, 201112:02 pm
    by Dan Feldman

    Reply

    Patrick, I don’t think the officiating is biased in favor of LeBron. He’s built like a Silverado and moves like a Corvette. It’s extremely difficult to stop him without fouling.

  • Jan 29, 201112:16 pm
    by Dan Feldman

    Reply

    PCB, you’re the only person on the planet who thinks the pass was a little off. It was perfect.

    Playing good defense is a valuable skill. Playing better defense than your opponent expects is also a valuable skill. Daye has the latter, but it’s not sustainable. The first three times LeBron made a play with Daye guarding him, Daye forced a Charlie Villanueva steal then LeBron missed two careless jumpers (which he can make against poorer defenders). I, too, noticed Daye’s defense, so I tracked what he did. After that, LeBron made two layups where Daye looked helpless and two jumpers that would have been difficult for most players, but not LeBron. The only other time Daye guarded LeBron was when Prince rested the first few minutes of the fourth quarter, when LeBron made his only shot, a short jumper. So, after those first three stops, LeBron made 5-of-5 shots over Daye. Prince isn’t a good defender right now. He just isn’t as bad as LeBron initially thought.

    Your defensive lineup doesn’t make sense. The Heat had Eddie House, Mike Miller, James Jones, LeBron James and Joel Anthony in the game. One of Wilcox or Monroe can guard Anthony. Who does the other guard?

  • Jan 29, 201112:19 pm
    by Dan Feldman

    Reply

    Fennis, I think you misunderstood my point on Gordon becoming the centerpiece. I’m talking about in a year or two when Monroe, Jerebko and Daye are the focal point of the team. They’ll need a big-time scorer to play with them, at least until Daye develops much more. This year, you’re absolutely right. With Gordon, Stuckey, Villanueva, Bynum, Prince, etc., even if it’s not their ideal game individually, they collectively benefit from moving the ball.

  • Jan 30, 20119:03 am
    by detroitpcb

    Reply

    @Feldman

    Even Special K noted that the pass was a little off. And what about that steal Daye made on LeBron at the end of the half – conveniently forgetting that play, are you?

    And the last thing Daye will need is an undersized erratic scorer to play with him & Daye & JJ. Keeping T-Mac would be good. Drafting a point guard would be good. Trading for a big man with a low post game would be good. drafting a shot blocker would be good. But the last thing they need is Ben Gordon jacking up bad shots.

  • Jan 30, 20115:41 pm
    by Dan Feldman

    Reply

    PCB, you’re right. I missed that last steal.

    I still don’t think the pass was off, though.

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