In 38 minutes against the Miami Heat this season, Austin Daye is shooting 59 percent. In 371 minutes against everyone else, he’s shooting 26 percent.
Daye didn’t have the kind of impact in tonight’s loss to the Heat that he had earlier in the season when he scored a career high 28 points in a much more competitive game against Miami. But his eight minutes did triple the total number of minutes he’s played in March, he did shoot 3-for-4 and he did not play in the passive, tentative way he so often has this season.
Daye still being on the roster after the trade deadline was a mild surprise, considering his seeming lack of fit in the system Lawrence Frank is trying to build here. But Joe Dumars’ comments after the deadline passed suggesting that the organization still has faith in Daye would lead me to believe that he’s going to get another opportunity at regular minutes before this season ends. Tonight was a good step in that direction.
The man immediately ahead of Daye on the depth chart, Damien Wilkins, also played pretty well against the Heat, but the good news is Wilkins playing decent doesn’t necessarily mean Daye has to sit. The only competitive lineup Frank put on the floor tonight, starting late in the third quarter, featured both Wilkins and Daye along with Will Bynum, Ben Wallace and Jonas Jerebko. Bynum pushed the ball, Wallace, Jerebko and Wilkins hustled and the helter-skelter nature of that lineup set Daye up for a few nice, easy looks, something he desperately needs to break out of his slump. I also liked that lineup simply because it paired Daye with four high-energy guys who scrap and hustle. Those are traits that really need to rub off on Daye if he’s going to play more.
The opportunity for minutes over at least the next week or so should be there. Rodney Stuckey missed his second straight game tonight and the team will rightly take its time with him. Ben Gordon followed up his spectacular Denver performance with a dud and Bynum is also known for his inconsistency. Daye’s ability to play minutes at shooting guard could be the small chance he needs to re-assert himself as a rotation player. In the past, Daye has had a hard time taking advantage of the bit minutes he does get and making a strong case that he’s deserving of more time on the court. Tonight, he played confidently and looked like a player who can do positive things for the Pistons. Hopefully he gets a chance to build on his small positive steps he took and hopefully he takes advantage of it.
Gordon didn’t have it
Dan Feldman noted earlier today just how out of nowhere Gordon’s 45-point game against the Nuggets was. He also brought up the unpleasant but likely scenario that the aggressive, dangerous scorer we saw in Denver was probably a one-game-only thing. He was right. Gordon’s first 3-point attempt against the Heat was way off and he missed all four of his attempts. He only shot the ball 10 times overall in 31 minutes and was back to being the passive spot-up shooter who doesn’t often look for his own offense we’ve grown accustomed to.
Part of the issue tonight was Gordon had a much tougher assignment on defense. Not that the Nuggets’ guards are slouches, but having to account for Arron Afflalo is a bit easier than having to worry about Dwyane Wade. Gordon understandably struggled at that end of the floor and it looked like having to pay extra attention to Wade and constantly worry about the tendency of Miami’s perimeter players to not only force turnovers, but to take off for run-outs afterwards, took a tool on his offense. His shots were usually contested and he turned the ball over seven times.
Knight scores efficiently
Brandon Knight turned it over three times and only had two assists against that tough Miami perimeter D, but he was able to get his shots off and get in the lane a little bit against the Heat. Unlike Gordon, Knight hit all four of his threes, so that opened things up a bit for him on the drive. With Stuckey out and Gordon struggling, Knight shifted over and spent time at shooting guard with Bynum running the point.
I know there’s a great debate and a few people who get offended every time it’s pointed out that Knight isn’t really a point guard yet, but with Stuckey out, it is more obvious that although Knight is getting better at taking care of the ball, the Pistons need Stuckey’s PG-like skills to help their offense run better.
Knight also broke the franchise rookie record for 3-pointers in a season, topping Lindsey Hunter’s previous record of 69. Knight still has a ways to go this season to build on that too.
Length bothers bigs
Greg Monroe, Jason Maxiell and Wallace combined to shoot 3-for-15. Joel Anthony and Chris Bosh only blocked three shots, but they altered many more. Monroe never got comfortable offensively and he had a terrible defensive first half, losing track of Anthony for a couple early buckets and he was regularly late with help when Miami’s wings penetrated. Struggling against athletic shot blockers like Anthony is nothing new for Monroe, but I was disappointed that he didn’t seem to use any of his trademark craftiness against Anthony. Early on, Monroe went straight into Anthony without using any pump fakes or secondary moves, making it very easy for Anthony to contest his shots and force him into bad misses.