I’m a dope, a fool, a sucker. Pick your word, and that’s me.
After the Pistons’ 96-81 win over the Celtics tonight, Detroit’s seventh win in its last nine games, not only am I starting to believe Rodney Stuckey has turned a corner, I actually checked the Eastern Conference standings to see how far the Pistons are from the playoffs. That gave me a much-needed reality check. With an 11-22 record, they’re 5.5 games and three teams out – too far back as the All-Star break nears to be considered a threat for the postseason.
But Stuckey? I’m nearly ready to jump on the bandwagon. As Patrick noted yesterday, Stuckey has had strong stretches before, but this run seems a little longer and a little better. For him to truly prove himself, he must play well the rest of the season. At least now, there are signs he will.
Stuckey is playing hard on both sides of the ball, which has been an issue for him. He’s getting to the free-throw line on offense, and he’s sticking with his man on defense.
At shooting guard, Stuckey no longer has a physical advantage over his opponents like he did at point guard. For him to compete, he must keep playing with energy. That’s far from a given to occur, but these flashes are inspiring.
Add his smart passing, improved outside shooting and savvy jumping of the passing lanes, and Stuckey looks like a complete player. For now, passing the eye test is fine and dandy.
The real test is still over the long haul, and it will be until he passes that one, too.
Most Valuable Player
Rodney Stuckey, who set the tone for the Pistons’ aggressive offense (12-of-15 on free throws) and defense (four steals while guarding Ray Allen and Paul Pierce).
Rajon Rondo throwing the ball at a referee and getting ejected in the third quarter. It didn’t define the game, which the Pistons led comfortably at the time, but it will definitely define Rondo’s bank account balance.
Leaving the benchwarmers on the bench
The Pistons led by at least 11 during the game’s final 16 minutes and as many as 20 in the fourth quarter. But Walker Russell and Vernon Macklin didn’t enter the game until 43 seconds remained. And Austin Daye didn’t play at all.
I was a little disappointed Lawrence Frank didn’t play the benchwarmers more, especially Macklin, who continued to play well in his extremely limited minutes. Tonight, he grabbed an offensive rebound and made a hook shot with three seconds left.
It’s also telling that Daye didn’t play, his third straight DNP-CD.