Veteran wisdom serving Pistons' youth
Auburn Hills — On a young Pistons team that is depending more on its young players, the veterans gave them a needed spark and kept them in a game that looked to be heading for the loss column.
As coach Stan Van Gundy insists that he's ready to go through the growing pains with his young players and use veterans as complementary pieces, he saw the value that the older players can offer in a crunch.
The Pistons got key contributions from Caron Butler, Tayshaun Prince and Joel Anthony and were able to race by the Bulls, 107-91, on Saturday night at The Palace.
Butler paced the first-quarter effort, with 13 points, as the Pistons jetted to a 30-20 lead. Prince and Anthony played with the bench group that struggled in the second quarter, but boosted the lead and ran away in the final minutes.
"Caron kept us in the game in the first half," Van Gundy said. "That game would have been over but he kept us in it. Joel played the last 20 minutes of the game.
"Tayshaun played the last 16 minutes of the game and (had) 10 rebounds, playing at the four spot against big guys. He was tremendous; all of those guys were tremendous."
Prince had 10 rebounds in the fourth quarter alone and Anthony played with energy and control, getting six points, six rebounds and four blocks. The unlikely pairing of Anthony with Andre Drummond was effective in the middle against the Bulls' Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah.
"That lineup has never practiced together, let alone played together. We've never once used those two guys together," Van Gundy said. "With Tolliver (in foul trouble) and (the Bulls) were playing big at the time, I thought that would be a tough matchup for Tayshaun, so we went with Joel and it worked.
"Sometimes you get lucky."
Besides their scoring contributions, they also did some intangibles that helped get the offense going, especially for Reggie Jackson, who sparked the comeback with 17 points and seven assists in the third quarter alone.
"People are going to say that Tayshaun rebounded, but they didn't notice how much he helped lead us in talking on defense and rotations," said Jackson, who had his ninth double-double of the season. "Everybody misses the little things that each and every team member has to do on both ends of the court."
Dinwiddie had a confidence-building fourth quarter, after struggling in the second period. In his first two minutes, he went 0-for-2 with two fouls and just one assist. When he came back in the final period, he was a catalyst for the comeback, with a three-point play that broke an 83-83 tie and scored another two baskets in the decisive 17-0 run.
"By nature, I'm looking to pass first. The thing about not hitting shots is that you go from an aggressive passer — because you know you're willing to shoot — to a passive passer, because you're actively not trying to shoot because you know shots aren't going in," Dinwiddie said.
Although Van Gundy has been trying to get Dinwiddie to take smarter shots and improve his overall play, it's not all in the statistics; rather, it's how he fits within the flow of the game and controls the offense.
Even with a 3-for-11 shooting night, Dinwiddie was able to get 10 assists total and to build on his game.
"In the second quarter, I didn't think (the pace was good), but in the fourth quarter, he was very, very good," Van Gundy said. "That was a very promising second half for us."