Game Notes: Thunder at Pistons
Pistons almost pull-off a massive upset.
by Eric Woodyard / @eric32woodyard
What drives Detroit Pistons basketball? DETermination.
This is the new motto for the franchise. The word DETermination is displayed on every possible Pistons outlet imaginable in the Palace of Auburn Hills. Honestly, what word would better describe the franchise heading into the ‘10-11 NBA Season?
After suffering a loss in their season opener, 98-101, to the New Jersey Nets, the Pistons were eager to bounce back in their home-opener against the Oklahoma City Thunder. They blew a seven-point lead in the final 2 minutes. The Pistons and Thunder also met last year in the Pistons’ home opener when the Thunder beat them Pistons, 91-83.
The Pistons were once again plagued with injuries, including Will Bynum (hamstring), but with a sellout crowd cheering them on would this be enough to top the young Thunder? If they were to lose, it would be the franchise’s worst start in 11 years.
Oklahoma City Thunder forward, Morris Peterson, released this statement…
As the reporters flocked to Kevin Durant for pre-game interviews in the visitor’s locker room, Mo-Pete gave him a heads up.
“That’s a Flintstone right there,” Peterson pointed towards me as he tapped Durant on the shoulder just before the interview session began.
“Oh ok a Flintstone? That’s what’s up,” KD responded as he nodded my way.
This set it up for me to ask these questions:
SLAM: How much more confident is this Thunder team this season based on last year’s success?
Kevin Durant: We’re confident [but] I think we’re not overconfident. I think we gotta learn that any time or any game we can get beat but we are confident in that each and every day we can get better.
SLAM: There’s been so much hype and hooplah surrounding you this year and being 22 years old myself I couldnt imagine what you’re going through, how are you able to stay so humble and focused through all of this hype?
KD: You know I didn’t have this growing up. I worked for this. It just didn’t come to me. At anytime it could be taken away so I gotta be thankful for it everyday and be humble and know that there is somebody better than me and just try to get to that level as well. So I’m not the best player ever or the best person ever so I still got room to grow and like I said just at this point anything can be taken away so I gotta be that way.
“Over-Rated,” a drunk fan yelled early in the quarter as Durant touched the ball. He would quickly eat those words.
Durant more than lived up to the hype! He scored an effortless 12 points, knocking down 3 of his first 6 shot attempts. The highlight of the quarter came off a Rip Hamilton turnover when Durant and Russell Westbrook connected on a fast break, two-handed jam.
Rodney Stuckey set the tone for Detroit, chipping in 8 points and 2 assists.
A few local celebrities stole the show.
There was more hype about Kid Rock than the actual game. The franchise honored the legendary musician with a banner right before the quarter began. The words “KID ROCK 21 SELLOUTS” was etched onto the purple and white banner and raised into the rafters as the fans went crazy. Kid Rock was also briefly interviewed about his history with the Pistons as his music blasted over the stadium’s speakers.
Detroit Lions, rookie defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh was also in the building. He was asked to shoot free throws for charity during a time-out. For every free throw he made, $200 was donated to a charity. Suh had 24 seconds and he was able to raise $1200. Not bad.
Oh yeah, the Thunder finished the half with a 56-51 lead.
The jumper was falling for Ben Gordon as he led the Pistons in scoring with 12 points while Stuckey dropped 10 points and 4 assists. Kevin Durant finished with 16 points and 4 boards for the Thunder.
Rodney Stuckey stole the show.
There was 5:21 on the clock when Russell Westbook and Nenad Kristic tried to double Stuckey near center court. Spotting how loose they were playing him, he easily split the defense and met Thabo Sefolosha at the rim for a nasty one-handed jam.
Stuckey would strike again near the end of the quarter with his best Allen Iverson impression. Just him and Daequan Cook were isolated as Stuckey had Cook on ice skates. It started with a between the legs crossover which led into a step back crossover and ended with a blow by layup.
He added 10 more points to his total giving him 20 heading into the final period.
Ben Gordon was on fire the entire quarter. He scored 14 points in this period alone. Fans applauded his efforts for all but the last 2.5 seconds.
The Pistons led 104-103 when the Thunder got possession with just 7.5 seconds left on the clock. Everybody in the gym thought Kevin Durant would take the last shot. As the ball was inbounded, the Pistons placed so much emphasis on Durant that they gave up a wide open driving lay up to Jeff Green which put the Thunder ahead by 1 point. With 2.5 seconds still on the clock, Ben Gordon pushed the ball up court with no regard for the shot clock as the time ran out without even getting off an attempt.
The hero quickly became the goat as fans expressed themselves rather clearly.
Oklahoma City defeated the Pistons, 105-104. Gordon finished with a game-high 32 points but Durant dropped 30 points, his ninth consecutive game of 30 or more points.
Pistons Head Coach, John Kuester, summed up the game the best at the post game presser.
“That last play, you have a decision you have to make in regards to trying to put out your best defenders and Green’s a good player and Max has done a good job and Tayshaun did a good job at taking the ball away from Durant. Jeff Green didnt know what to do but drive the ball and unfortunately it didnt work out the way we wanted it to.”
Rodney Stuckey didnt seem too upset, more frustrated. After a 24 point, 9 assists, and 5 rebound effort, I dont think I would have been either. He gave it his all. As he got dressed to leave the office, I caught up with Stuckey at his locker for his thoughts on the game.
SLAM: How tough was that loss?
Rodney Stuckey: Man, we was right there and I think turnovers and second chance points really hurt us. I think if we would have took care of the ball a little bit more and kept them off the boards a bit then we would have been alright.
SLAM: Were you surprised with how easy it was for you to get to the basket all night?
RS: Nah, that’s just what I’ve been working on just being more explosive and stuff like that but that’s my game anyway it’s attacking the hoop.
SLAM: I like how you broke down Daequan Cook in the corner with that crossover in the third quarter, is that ball handling something else you’ve been working on?
RS: Yea just my ball handling and stuff like that. That’s just all I’ve been doing this summer, just been working. I was just trying to prepare myself for this run.
SLAM: Do you think this team lost any confidence with these two tough losses?
RS: Nah, not at all. A little slippage but I think we’ll be alright though. We just gotta come in and do the little things like rebound and take care of the ball and we’ll be alright.
The Pistons will head to Chicago to take on the Bulls tonight at 8 p.m.