Yet another moral victory. Despite trailing by 20 after three quarters, the Pistons never gave up, and came this close to pulling out a stunner on the road by cutting Portland's lead to one. Sadly, it wasn't meant to be; Portland hung on for the 87-81 victory.
This bulldog, never-let-go mentality is quickly becoming the trademark of the team, but it certainly caught the Blazers -- and Brandon Roy -- by surprise. From (the always excellent) Blazersedge:
Rushed back into the game to put out the fire, Roy failed to score a point, notch an assist, grab a rebound and only took one field goal attempt in nearly five minutes of fourth quarter play. The Pistons regularly ran a second defender at him to force the ball from his hands, then did a solid job of rotating defensively, necessitating extra passes. His shot-making taken away, his passing countered, Roy was as neutralized as I can remember seeing him down the stretch, a bystander as his teammates committed turnovers and struggled to break a scrambling Pistons trap.
Trailing by 20 entering the final quarter on the second half of a back-to-back, it'd be easy to pack it early and start thinking about nap time on the flight out of town. Instead, a graybeard (Wallace) and a bunch of youngsters (Stuckey, Daye, Jerebko, Summers, Villanueva) nearly pull off a season-defining upset down the stretch. It didn't happen, but the amount of fight in this team is inspiring.
With apologies to my favorite Magic blog, it was that damn third quarter collapse -- a 17-2 run in the fourth would matter a lot more had the team not given up a 13-0 run the period before.
Also, some of the rotations left something to be desired: Charlie Villanueva scored 20 in 16 minutes; Ben Gordon played 34 of the first 36 minutes before sitting the entire fourth. Plus, Rodney Stuckey is still looking for his shot more often than his teammates.
Despite struggling from the field (6-21 FG) and not knowing his range (0-5 from three-point land), Rodney Stuckey helped fuel Detroit's frantic comeback, collecting four of his five assists in the final frame. On a night when both Ben Gordon and Will Bynum were struggling, Stuckey was the only guard keeping the Pistons in the game. (Quite literally, in fact, as the team primarily went with a Big Ball lineup featuring Stuckey, Daye, Summers, Wallace and Villanueva down the stretch.)
The Bison Dele Unsung Hero
Maybe it's me, but I'm often surprised at Charlie Villanueva's stats at the end of the game -- it looks good on paper, but I never remember him having that much of an impact on the game. I'm not dogging him, though; 20 points in 16 minutes, albeit with only three boards, is pretty impressive -- and not a bad way to bounce back from Tuesday's embarrassing two-point game in LA.
(Also, Ben Wallace grabbed 12 boards in 33 minutes. You know his revival going well when performances like that no longer make you look twice.)
The Pistons will never, ever stop fighting. There are too many guys scrapping for minutes for anyone to feel safe taking a play off.
The Moving Pictures
Elsewhere in the NBA
The Knicks doubled their win total with a win over the Pacers, while the Nets extended their season-opening slide to 12. Seriously, basketball in and around the Big Apple blows.
Also, the Hawks blew out Miami to improve to 10-2. Despite some intriguing individual players, the Hawks have always seemed more like pretenders than contenders in the past; if you watch them play this year, they're playing hard-nosed, disciplined ball. Seems weird to say it, but I'm becoming convinced they're a top three team in the East, maybe even top two.