Lawrence Frank, take note. This is how you coach a rebuilding basketball team. With Frank dealing with a family issue in New Jersey, Brian Hill was the acting head coach for the second straight game. The Detroit Pistons had lost three straight coming into this one and it wasn’t going to be easy against the Dallas Mavericks.
I just want to skip to the fourth quarter. After Detroit got to within 76-71 after three, Dallas unleashed a 3-point attack on the Pistons. Former Piston Mike James hit back-to-back 3’s and then Vince Carter hit back-to-back 3’s to put the Mavericks up 88-73. All hope seemed lost.
The resilient Pistons put on a comeback of their own behind rookie Khris Middleton and Charlie Villanueva. Detroit went on a 28-8 run. Villanueva tipped in a Jason Maxiell miss, then he had an And-1. He missed the free throw and after a mad scramble, Middleton ended up with the ball and got the layup to go to bring the Pistons within 90-83.
Villanueva then had a 3 off the Jose Calderon pass, Middleton followed that up with a jump shot, Calderon then found Middleton open for a 3, and Villanueva followed that up with a 3 and he strutted down the court. The Pistons were within 95-94.
O.J. Mayo made 1 of 2 free throws to make it 96-94 Dallas. Then Brandon Knight drove the lane and kicked it out to Middleton for an open 3. Middleton knocked it down, the Pistons had a 97-96 lead, and the Palace was very loud.
The Mavericks then answered with a heavy dose of Dirk Nowitzki for a 100-97 lead. Villanueva missed from the corner for the tie and the Pistons fell 102-99.
Now, here’s why I absolutely loved the way Hill coached tonight. For one, he benched Rodney Stuckey. Stuckey is 0-11 shooting over his last three games. He gave those minutes to Middleton and Middleton flourished. He had 14 points with 10 coming in the fourth quarter. I’ve said for awhile now that Stuckey needs to stop getting playing time. Middleton finally got his moment and he made a statement.
Another thing I loved about Hill tonight, he drew up a play for an open Villanueva for the tie. Villanueva didn’t make the shot, but it was an open look and Hill did a great job drawing it up.
This isn’t a “Brian Hill for a head coach” champaign, but I’m hoping Lawrence Frank was watching tonight and that Frank sees the good things that Hill and Middleton did tonight.
Up next is a western road swing starting in Lob City against the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday night.