After watching the Pistons limp into halftime with just 38 points and trailing by 11, I was more worried about the second half staying competitive than the Pistons emerging with a win. Shows how much I know -- the Pistons not only stormed back but also pulled ahead, outscoring Cleveland 58-40 in the second half for a 96-89 victory.
I've given Rasheed Wallace his fair share of grief (and then some) for camping out beyond the arc, but it was his clutch three-point shooting that broke this game open, most notably his back-to-back three-pointers in the fourth that came from two big steps behind the line.
As much as Wallace likes to float to the outside, he's been good but never consistently great from behind the line. The three-pointer didn't become a regular part of his repertoire until 2001, and in the years since he's never shot better than 36%. Granted, that percentage could be a lot worse, but considering his 35.6% mark last year ranked sixth on the team (behind Rip, Chauncey, Juan Dixon, Jarvis Hayes and Tayshaun), it's always been a little frustrating when he didn't just play to his real strength, which is scoring from the low post.
But this year? Wallace has stepped up to hit at a 40.4% clip. The sample size is too small to get excited about a 5% increase, but considering he's also rebounding at a career-high rate of 10.1 boards per game, his fast start is impressive no matter how you look at it. Maybe he's playing better with Iverson, or maybe it's the old contract year carrot doing its trick, but he's been phenomenal. For all the attention I lavish upon unproven youngsters, it's only fair to acknowledge that Sheed is playing some of the best ball of his career.
Rip Hamilton's early-season struggles have been a topic of discussion among a lot of fans, but I think it's fair to put those to rest. After shooting 7-13 from the field on Sunday, he shot 6-11 from the field last night. What was unusual was the fact that he sat out the entire fourth quarter, but I credit that to circumstance: Arron Afflalo was playing extremely well and the Pistons were pulling ahead -- instead of over-coaching simply to appease egos, Michael Curry stuck with what was working.
And with a game tonight in Boston, Rip sounded like he appreciate the chance to rest. From A. Sherrod Blakely:
Richard Hamilton was on the bench for the entire fourth quarter Wednesday, which is rare. Him not grumbling about it is even more unusual.
"It was great," Hamilton said of not playing in the fourth. "Especially with a back-to-back. It feels good sometimes to sit and watch while the team's playing well down the stretch."
Afflalo finished with just five points but more telling was the fact he tallied a team-high +12 plus/minus in just 14 minutes.
LeBron James, meanwhile, scored 25 points but shot just 8-21 from the field, including 1-6 in the fourth. He added six boards and six assists. With anyone else you'd take that production and love it, but with him, he's set the bar so high this was actually an "off" game.
I hate seeing Ben Wallace come back to Detroit. Not only is he an absolute shell of his former self on the court, but it's also sad to hear him still being booed so loudly by his former fans. It was fun at first, but from my perspective it's getting old. The Pistons are better off without him; isn't that the ultimate revenge?
Last but not least: As mentioned in the game thread, I attended last night's game as a guest of Canadian Club, enjoying a pre-game whisky tasting and dinner in celebration of the grand opening of the aptly-named Canadian Club Terrace. Given my usual game experience working for FanHouse, I'm not easily wined and dined -- the Palace does a great job feeding the media, and you can't beat the view from press row -- but I tip my hat to CC for putting together an impressive event.
The highlight? Getting a chance to sample Canadian Club 30 Year Old, a limited edition release (only 39 barrels were produced) in celebration of the brand's 150th anniversary. It was easily the best booze I ever tasted, though that should have been expected considering it was also the most expensive -- if you want some, it'll set you back $200 a bottle, and that's if your neighborhood liquor store stocks it.
Why am babbling about this? Because I'm big on transparency and appreciate the invite, and I figured an upfront mention was preferable than sneaking in random CC references into my regular posts ("Amir Johnson is raw but will get better with age ... much like Canadian Club Classic 12 Year Old!" "Allen Iverson finished strong ... and with hints of wood and vanilla like Canadian Club 6 Year Old!") Just saying.