If you must start Richard Hamilton and Rodney Stuckey, it’s nice when they come through

Like most people, I was a bit surprised Rodney Stuckey and Richard Hamilton started against the Warriors tonight.

Unlike most people, I agreed with them starting.

The Pistons are in an unmanageable situation. They have too much invested in Stuckey and Hamilton to sit those players. They have a coach who may have lost the respect of the team but probably can’t be fired because the team is for sale.

I really doubt Kuester wanted to start Stuckey after the point guard disrespected him. It wouldn’t surprise me, either, if Kuester didn’t want to start Hamilton over Ben Gordon, who has been the better player. But he had to start Stuckey and Hamilton.

The only way for this to work is keep Stuckey and Hamilton happy and hope they play well.

It worked tonight. Stuckey (21 points, nine assists and six rebounds) and Hamilton (27 rebounds, five rebounds and two assists) shined in a 102-97 win.

Instead of playing two liabilities in the backcourt, the Pistons had two stars. Throw in tough team defense and a well-deserved double-double from Charlie Villanueva, and you can survive the sloppy start to the second half and earn an exciting victory. But it all starts with that backcourt.

They hit big shots down the stretch, moved the ball and played tough defense on Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry.

More importantly, their body language was great. At times this year, Hamilton has looked less than chipper. He needs to have a pep in his step to play this way, and he had it tonight. I wasn’t sure how Stuckey would react to his benching, but he came out focused and said the right things.

In his postgame interview with Ryan Field, Stuckey admitted he made a mistake and apologized to his coach and his teammates. I like that answer much more than the dismissive comment he offered earlier in the day about moving past the situation.

I don’t expect Stuckey and Hamilton to be so productive every night, but with the Pistons situation, it makes everything so much easier when they are.

Ben Wallace’s night ends early again

What’s up with Ben Wallace? He hasn’t played in the last four fourth quarters.

Is it possible, at his age, once he sits, he struggles to get loose again? Is Kuester overly worried about hack-a-Ben? Have strange matchups made this appear to be a trend, when it’s really not?

Pistons boosted by unlikely performance

Charlie Villanueva had 16 points and 10 rebounds, and he played good interior defense. The Warriors might just be a good matchup for him, but Villanueva used his strength to keep their bigs from getting comfortable looks near the basket.

Ben Gordon had six assists and no turnovers.

How often can you expect those two to play like that?

I think Villanueva’s performance is more sustainable. Gordon, although a gifted scorer, is not a point guard. If he can pass and take care of the basketball, that would be a new element of his game. Villanueva scores and rebounds – and defends this year – in spurts. If he has games like this consistently, that would be a big step for him. But it’s not unheard of for him to play this way once in a while.

On top of that, Ellis and Curry combined to miss all eight of their 3-point attempts. A few things just fell into place tonight.

Didn’t have to be so close

For most of the night, the Pistons were clearly the better team. But they lost focus for a few minutes early in the third quarter, and the Warriors pounced. (Again, what’s up with all these bad third quarters, especially when the Pistons hold a halftime lead?)

The Pistons went from missing good shot in the first half to missing bad shots in the second half. Against a team like Golden State, there’s a big difference.

Bad shots lead to long rebounds, and those long rebounds prevented the Pistons from slowing the tempo, like they did in the first half. Sprinting up and down the court like they wanted to, the Warriors opened the second half with an 18-5 run.

Prior to that, the Pistons played fantastic half-court defense, and give them credit for getting their offense and defense back on track. But a short lapse kept this game tight.

Free woes

The Pistons made just 19-of-28 free throws, including Greg Monroe’s 1-of-7 mark. The rank 25th in the league, shooting 72.1 percent.

This is probably just who the Pistons are – a poor free-throw shooting team.

Tags: Ben Gordon Ben Wallace Charlie Villanueva John Kuester Richard Hamilton Rodney Stuckey

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