Detroit Pistons: Second Unit Keying Recent Surge

Don’t look now, but the Detroit Pistons have won three of their last four games, the most recent win a 109-99 victory over the defending champion Miami Heat at the Palace of Auburn Hills (Mich.) Friday night.

It was their first win over the Heat in eight tries at home and, as has been the case in the last week or so, it was the second unit that carried the load for the Pistons.

In the win over Miami, Will Bynum came off the bench to score 25 points and dish out 10 assists. Rookie Andre Drummond put up his third double-double in his last four games with 10 points and 10 rebounds. Charlie Villanueva poured in 18 points and Austin Daye added 11.

Even without Rodney Stuckey, who was out with a sprained ankle, Detroit’s reserves piled up 64 points and 22 rebounds in the 10-point win over the Heat.

That came two nights after a heartbreaking, double-overtime 126-119 loss at Atlanta. In that game, the Piston bench keyed a huge fourth-quarter comeback. The Hawks led by 22 points before Bynum and Villanueva teamed up for 26 points in the final period.

The reserves shined against the Hawks, scoring 85 points in Atlanta—the highest total off the bench by any team this century. The Charlotte Hornets were the last team to score 85 bench points in a game, turning the trick in 1999 against the Boston Celtics.

In the loss to the Hawks, Bynum scored 31 points, Stuckey added 16 to go with 11 assists, Villanueva had 14, Drummond went for 16 points and 12 boards and Austin Daye scored eight points and grabbed 11 rebounds. In all, 85 points and 39 rebounds off the pine.

That came after a 52-point bench effort in a 96-87 win over the Washington Wizards on Dec. 22 and 48 points and 31 rebounds from the reserves in a 100-68 pummeling of the Wizards the previous night.

In all, that’s 249 points from the bench in four games.

–Villanueva has scored 56 points and pulled down 23 rebounds in four games.

–Drummond has 41 points and 47 rebounds.

–Bynum had logged 69 points.

–Daye has 30 points and 27 boards.

–Stuckey scored 45 points and handed out 24 assists in the two wins over Washington and the loss at Atlanta before he was hurt.

With the exception of Drummond, the other players in that group were mostly buried at the end of coach Lawrence Frank’s bench. So what’s changed for the second unit?

Tayshaun Prince, one of Detroit’s starters, told Fox Sports Detroit that it has to do with the way the second unit complements each other’s skill sets.

“It has a lot to do with (Villanueva) out there, spreading the floor, (Daye) spreading the floor,” Prince said. “And you’ve got (Drummond) running to the rim. (Bynum) has the opportunity to penetrate, get Andre at the rim or make plays for 3-point shooters. Obviously the first group, we’re not as good 3-point shooters as those guys are.”

The second unit is also thriving because Bynum, Villanueva and Daye didn’t pout when their numbers weren’t being called.

“It’s hard to put in words, but it’s a great feeling,” Daye said. “For us to get DNPs and not be playing and for us to stay the course off the court, a lot of people don’t see it, a lot of people just see us sitting on the bench. They don’t see all the time and hours we put in off the court. I think that now if they could see us out there, they see what we have been doing.”

Bynum became the first Piston since Richard Hamilton to score 25 points in back-to-back games. He’s not likely to get lost at the end of the bench again soon.

“You’ve got to give Will a lot of credit,” Frank said. “Will wasn’t playing. Will kind of got squeezed out of the rotation once we got (Stuckey) to point guard and had several DNPs and stayed the course. He deserves all the credit for being able to respond and do what he did.”

The Pistons aren’t in the mix for a playoff berth in the Eastern Conference this season at 10-22. On the other hand, though, they’ve gone 10-14 since opening the season with eight straight losses and have won three of four after snapping a six-game losing skid.

Youngster Greg Monroe is continuing to develop as an inside presence, averaging 15.1 points and 8.8 rebounds a game in 32 starts this year and point guard Brandon Knight is also making strides in his second season, averaging 14 points and nearly five assists per night. If Knight can improve his shot selection and become more of a distributor for guys like Monroe and Drummond on the inside, the Pistons might re-emerge from the doldrums of four straight sub-.500 seasons and four coaches in a six-season stretch.

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