AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — Apparently, all the Pistons (10-22) needed to beat the defending champion Miami Heat for the first time in eight games at home was Will Bynum, Charlie Villanueva, Austin Daye and Andre Drummond.
Those four combined for 64 points in a 109-99 victory over the Heat Friday night in front of a sellout crowd at the Palace.
Except for Drummond, those players were collecting DNP-CDs (Did Not Play-Coach’s Decision) a few short weeks ago.
In their last four games, that group has scored 249 points, three of them wins. In the other game, at Atlanta, they sparked a fourth-quarter comeback that nearly led to a win. Instead, they fell in double overtime.
“That whole game changed for us in the second quarter,” Pistons coach Lawrence Frank said. “That’s three straight games where it changed the game. The really positive, encouraging thing is to start the third quarter, we played off of that. I think the second unit set a really good example and our guys fed off it.”
In the first quarter, it looked like the Heat (20-7) would cruise to their seventh straight victory as they took a 32-17 lead.
But the bench, playing without Rodney Stuckey (left ankle sprain), managed to reel off a 41-20 second quarter for a 58-52 lead.
In that period, Villanueva had 11 points on 4-for-5 shooting, including 3-for-4 from three-point range; Daye had nine points on 3-for-4 shooting, including 2-for-2 from three-point range; Bynum had 10 points on 4-for-6 shooting, including 2-for-3 from three-point range; and Drummond had six points and five rebounds in a little over eight minutes.
“Their bench came in and turned it up about 17 notches,” said LeBron James, who had a game-high 35 points. “We let them get into a comfort zone in the second quarter, and after that, they were making all kinds of contested shots.
“We’d start to cut into the lead, and they’d make a pull-up two in traffic or they’d hit a contested three, and those are back-breakers. It’s hard to make any kind of run when a team keeps doing that to you.”
Tayshaun Prince, who played a team-high 36 minutes in order to try to keep James in check, said the makeup of the second unit is what’s been making them successful.
“It has a lot to do with Charlie out there, spreading the floor, Austin spreading the floor,” Prince said. “And you’ve got Andre running to the rim. Will has the opportunity to penetrate, get Andre at the rim or make plays for three-point shooters. Obviously the first group, we’re not as good three-point shooters as those guys are.
“Greg (Monroe) and Max (Jason Maxiell) don’t have the athletic ability that Andre has, so you’ve got to run certain plays for certain groups. That’s why things are rolling with them right now, because they’re knocking down threes and Will is making plays for Andre at the rim.”
The second unit is also rolling because Bynum (25 points), Villanueva and Daye never gave up when they weren’t playing. They kept working and stayed ready in case their numbers were 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, who had 31 points against Atlanta, is the first player since Rip Hamilton to score 25 or more points in back-to-back games. There’s very little chance he’ll be getting any more DNP-CDs anytime soon.
“You’ve got to give Will a lot of credit, Will wasn’t playing.” Frank said. “Will kind of got squeezed out of the rotation once we got Rodney 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.”