Will Bynum enjoys fourth quarters, it seems. Unfortunately, a certain former Piston who hopefully haunts Joe Dumars’ dreams enjoys them just a bit more.
A Bynum layup, two of his 13 fourth quarter points, with just over three minutes left got the Pistons within one, but Chauncey Billups immediately answered with a 3-pointer and he’d hit three more 3-pointers for good measure in the final minutes because, well, just to give an added kick to the groin I guess, and Denver pulled out a 109-100 win.
Honestly, because of Feldman’s antiquated views on profanity, I can’t relate exactly what I thought immediately after Billups’ second 3-pointer. But let’s just say it involved Joe Dumars. And something he can do. And I don’t even dislike Joe Dumars. It was just impossibly hard to watch that Billups sequence in the fourth quarter without getting really mad. Ridiculously mad, actually.
But seriously, good for Billups. That has to be the ultimate feeling, to come back to an arena you used to own, an arena that used to be full of energy, as weird as that sounds considering the Palace right now is probably the deadest place in the NBA, and give the ultimate middle finger to the organization that traded you for no reason. And on top of that, he got the added bonus of getting a small measure of revenge of his beleaguered friend Rip Hamilton, whom Billups obviously has a lot of sympathy for right now.
The fourth three in that flurry wasn’t even really necessary, and it was the one that brought out the trademark Billups grin. That’s when it was too much pain for me. But I got over it because, made up in my own head or not, I like to think that last three and the smile that went with it was specifically for Dumars for pulling the plug on Billups and his team too soon.
Denver is a good team, and the Pistons were in this game most of the way, but don’t get it twisted: they took some steps back from the goodwill that had been built up by positive performances in previous games. Denver wasn’t at full strength, not even close actually. Detroit didn’t defend well. And to make matters worse, not only did Billups score 26 points, but fellow starter Arron Afflalo scored 17. Nothing like seeing two former players come in and show that they are infinitely better than the guys you replaced them with.
Watching Billups and Afflalo perform at that level for another team on the Palace floor made this one of the hardest games for me to watch in a long time. I’m glad the Pistons have played better lately, I’m glad there are some young with promise on the team getting good minutes and contributing, but it’s frankly ridiculous that the Pistons not only gave up Billups and Afflalo, but they gave them up with no assets to show for the trouble.
Carmelo Anthony shot the ball poorly and Tayshaun Prince, who played 38 minutes defending ‘Melo for many of them, did a nice job contesting Anthony’s shots. Anthony hit only two shots in the second half.
To his credit, however, Anthony did a little bit of everything since his shot wasn’t falling. He had 10 rebounds and seven assists and he even played a little defense himself, holding Prince to 5-for-14 shooting. The Pistons did enough with ‘Melo to limit his scoring, but this was the rare game where Anthony made a positive impact on the outcome even when his shot was not falling.
No taking advantage of backups
Other than the whole Billups/Afflalo angle, the most disappointing aspect of this game was Detroit’s inability to take advantage of a really depleted Denver frontcourt. Nene and Kenyon Martin were both late scratches, so Denver started Shelden Williams and Al Harrington. That’s hardly an imposing duo. And still, both were pretty effective. Williams scored a season-high 13 points and although Harrington shot poorly (though it certainly didn’t make him more bashful as his 13 shot attempts attest), his presence and 3-point shooting ability stretched the Pistons defense enough to open up driving lanes for Billups, Afflalo and J.R. Smith.
Consistency eludes Daye
Many were understandably excited with Austin Daye‘s career-high performance against Orlando. It’s not that I’m not excited about Daye’s potential. I am. He’s a beautiful offensive player. But I do get irritated with fans and writers alike who treat him as if he’s clearly going to be an elite-level scorer in this league. Frankly, he’s still wildly inconsistent. He followed up that brilliant Orlando performance with a poor one against Denver.
In the past, the staunch Daye defenders chalk that up to one of two things: either the veterans didn’t pass to him or John Kuester didn’t play him enough minutes. Now, he did only put up six shots vs. Denver, but it was more a matter of Daye not being very aggressive rather than teammates not looking for him. And he also played 24 minutes. It’s just way too early to project what his ceiling is when he follows up a great performance with a performance in which he only makes one shot. And worse yet, he didn’t even do anything else really against Denver.
Right now, Daye is a nice scoring option off the bench, and a handful of decent performances aside, he hasn’t proven than we should expect him to be anymore than a nice scoring option off the bench.