Everyone thought the Pistons were going to lose to Cleveland. Columnists were pleading with the Pistons not to lose. People on Twitter were irrationally fearing the worst. PistonPowered commenters were convinced a loss was coming.
And it even affected Vegas. Earlier today, the Pistons were listed as one point favorites (hence the numbers in my game preview). Before game time, however, that had changed and they were 1.5 point underdogs. (Hat-tip Brian Packey) To a team that had lost 25 straight games. Then the Pistons got off to a sluggish start, and people assumed the worst was happening.
But fortunately, the Pistons came away with a 103-94 win. It wasn’t pretty the whole way. Cleveland got a little too close, cutting it to five at one point in the second half, but the Cavs eventually ran out of steam, and the biggest factor was the Pistons bench.
We haven’t heard that in a while. If you remember, when the Pistons got off to a wretched start this season, the crutch virtually every writer looking at the bright side leaned on was that beautiful bench scoring. “Sure, they’ve played bad, but their bench totally out-scores every other team’s.”
It was a hollow stat for sure. After all, what value is a bench that puts up numbers if your starting unit is getting crushed every night? That type of production doesn’t lead to wins. But against Cleveland, the Pistons’ bench production did the opposite. They didn’t simply outscore the opposing second unit. They changed the pace of the game and used their energy to wear Cleveland down. That’s what great benches do, and that’s the difference between the early season bench scoring and the bench production in this game.
It’s important to note the difference. The bench certainly scored against Cleveland, combining for 61 points. But Rodney Stuckey, although he didn’t shoot that well at 6-for-16, constantly had the defense on its heels as he looked to attack. Chris Wilcox returned and had six points and six rebounds, spelling Greg Monroe and Ben Wallace, who looked like last night’s tough matchup with San Antonio’s frontline had some lingering affects on both. And Charlie Villanueva had his highest scoring game since Jan. 17. Cleveland basically only played six guys significant minutes, and the fact that the Pistons were able to bring in a completely fresh second unit essentially made it impossible for the Cavs to keep pace.
After his fantastic game against the Spurs, I was quite frankly shocked at the number of people in the comments who were critical of one of only two Pistons who really had a good game. I thought it was outrageous. But the number one complaint, it seemed, was that some people felt Bynum was out of control and didn’t look to pass enough against San Antonio. Well, just to prove that he’s a man of many styles, he scored, he dished and he ran the offense efficiently against Cleveland. Bynum scored 17 points with 7 assists and just one turnover. Each game, he seems to get closer and closer to where he was before he suffered a series of leg injuries that sapped his explosiveness. Bynum is capable of being as good a backup point guard as their is in the league. Now they just have to figure out who that starting point guard should be.
A win over one of the worst teams of all-time is nothing to get particularly excited about. But it has to feel good for Detroit to win a game that, for whatever reason, most people believed they would lose. The bench play allowed John Kuester to limit the minutes of Wallace and Tracy McGrady, which should be beneficial heading into Friday’s game vs. the Heat.