Ben Gordon, pressed into the starting lineup with Rodney Stuckey injured, scored six points points in the first quarter, 21 points in the second quarter and 15 points in the third quarter. With each shot, seemingly an impossible performance for him, Gordon did the impossible: erased the sad reality surrounding this awesome game.
For a time, Gordon’s hefty contract didn’t matter. The Pistons’ awful record didn’t matter. And Arron Afflalo, usually a capable defender, sure as heck didn’t matter.
Nothing mattered but Gordon scoring at an utterly fantastic rate.
He looked like the Gordon who played for the Bulls – the elite outside shooter and quality scorer. The performance was dazzling and electrifying, and I’m sure it boosted television ratings as many tweeted encouragement to watch Gordon’s night.
Gordon finished with 45 points – the most since Richard Hamilton scored 51 in 2006, his high with Detroit and three shy of his career high.
But late in the third quarter, Gordon, who had dashed around screens – the best set by Jason Maxiell – to score many of his points, was mostly standing still. Gordon’s increased minutes, exasperated by Denver’s thin air, were taking a toll.
The Magic was wearing off. Gordon’s time machine that had driven off a ravine, hit 88 miles per hour and returned him to reality.
And to his absolute credit, Gordon stopped forcing shots when it became clear he would no longer be efficient. Five of his eight assists came after he scored his 40th point.
In the end, Gordon’s spectacular night won’t change anything. It won’t ease the burden of Gordon’s $58 million contract. It doesn’t make the Pistons relevant. And it doesn’t mean Gordon has suddenly returned to form. Rodney Stuckey should start again when he gets healthy, and I’m nearly certain he will.
It became clear early in the season that Pistons games would be successful if their young players progressed and they lost – the ultimate combination for progressing to contention. But I think there’s a third prong: From time to time, it’s fun to see incredible performances from Detroit. Tonight, Gordon provided that – and the Pistons lost. What a great night.
JaVale McGee’s dunk a Greg Monroe gaffe
With the Pistons up three and five seconds left, Gordon fouled a driving Afflalo, who scored on continuation. Although Afflalo missed the free throw, JaVale McGee worked around Greg Monroe and dunked the putback to win his Nuggets debut.
Monroe finished with 13 points and 11 rebounds, but he made very little positive impact tonight. Those numbers are boosted by a high pace, some uncontested rebounds and Monroe choosing his spots. For the most part, the Pistons need Monroe to be more assertive and take the ball out of his less-efficient teammates’ hands.
I’m not sure he’s capable yet of shouldering that load on a nightly basis, but at least he appears to know he must box out better. After the game, Monroe tweeted:
This is unacceptable on my part. I have to be better!
I love the attitude.
Ben Gordon matches 3-pointer record
Ben Gordon made 9-of-9 3-pointers, tying a record he already held with Latrell Sprewell for most 3-pointers in a game without missing. In a wild game, which the Nuggets led 45-20, Gordon’s outside shooting will have the longest-lasting impact. The rest of the night will be forgotten soon enough, but when someone next challenges the record, Gordon’s 9-of-9 will come up.
If the Pistons had completed the comeback, that would have been their largest comeback of all time.
Jonas Jerebko defends well amidst chaos
The Pistons allowed Denver to make 18 of its first 22 shots, including 6-of-8 3-pointers. What was Detroit doing wrong defensively? Everything. The major issue I saw: the Pistons were slow rotating initially, and when the Nuggets repeatedly made the extra pass, the Pistons had no chance to close.
Only Jonas Jerebko defended well throughout the game. He forced Al Harrington into tough shots, though Harrington made most of them. Sometimes, there’s nothing a defender can do.