Wizards

Pistons getting big boost from their reserves

Pistons getting big boost from their reserves

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) Detroit had just upset the Miami Heat and LeBron James was reviewing the game with reporters when he saved some of his most effusive praise for an unlikely recipient.

It was Pistons guard Will Bynum, who at one point this season went three weeks without scoring.

``He controlled the game,'' James said. ``We couldn't do anything with him.''

If Detroit finishes with a respectable record - and at 13-23 the Pistons have a long way to go - these last couple weeks may end up being the turning point. Detroit has won six of eight, including a four-game winning streak that ended Sunday.

What's changed? The performance of the backups - players such as Bynum, Austin Daye, Charlie Villanueva and rookie Andre Drummond.

``They play at a pace, a spirit, an energy level, and that's important,'' coach Lawrence Frank said. ``To me, so much of the game is how, on both ends, your pieces fit together.''

Detroit is 10th in the league in bench scoring at 36.9 points per game, according to STATS. But over the last eight games, the reserves are averaging 51.1. That included an 85-point effort in a double-overtime loss at Atlanta on Dec. 26, followed by a 64-point contribution in a 109-99 victory over the Heat.

According to STATS, the 149 points by the reserves were the most in a two-game span since Phoenix got 158 in 1995.

``Within our group, you never know who's going to have a big night,'' Daye said. ``With us, it's just trying to find our niche on the offensive end, which I think we're doing. ... The second unit has done a good job of just trying to stay consistent, trying to move the ball.''

Detroit has been trying to rebuild around young players, including center Greg Monroe and guard Brandon Knight. There wasn't much progress early this season, when the Pistons started 0-8 and fell way behind in the playoff race.

From Nov. 28 through Dec. 15, Bynum played in only two of a possible 11 games and failed to score. About a week after Frank began using him again, Bynum broke through with 31 points in the loss to Atlanta before scoring 25 against Miami.

Daye was even more of a forgotten man, playing in only five of Detroit's first 26 games. Now the slender 6-foot-11 forward is looking more confident. His late 3-pointer helped seal a win over Sacramento on Jan. 1, and he followed that up with 20 points against Atlanta last Friday in the final game of the winning streak.

Villanueva played in only three of the first 13 games but has received his share of minutes since. He's shooting 40 percent from 3-point range. Meanwhile, the 6-foot-11 Drummond is averaging 7.1 points and 7.2 rebounds.

Guard Rodney Stuckey, a starter for much of his time in Detroit, has come off the bench 23 times this season, but he's still averaging 12.2 points.

``I think it's the perfect mixture of players playing together chemistry-wise,'' Bynum said. ``You've got me - find guys and run the team, score when possible. You've got Dre rolling to the basket. It's tough when you've got Austin and Charlie and Stuckey on the weak side. It's tough to defend.''

The big concern going forward is defense. As impressive as it is to watch the second unit score points in bunches, the Pistons have to be mindful of the other end of the court, too. The second quarter is when the backups have done a lot of their damage recently, but as Frank pointed out, Detroit was outscored 38-30 in the period during its 108-101 overtime loss to Charlotte on Sunday that snapped the winning streak.

But with the backups contributing, Frank now feels he has plenty of options, and a rare four-day stretch without a game gave him a chance to consider some varying lineup possibilities before Friday night's matchup at Milwaukee.

``Through practice, we had a bunch of different combinations throughout,'' Frank said Wednesday. ``One of the strengths of our team that we've seen over the last couple weeks is that anyone is capable of closing the game.''

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Bradley Beal makes most of his opportunity in first All-Star Game

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Associated Press

Bradley Beal makes most of his opportunity in first All-Star Game

Bradley Beal may have had a slow start in the three-point contest on Saturday night, but in Sunday's All-Star Game he worked quickly to make the most of his relatively small window of playing time.

Beal checked in for the first time with 5:45 left in the first quarter and less than 25 seconds later had his first points on a two-handed dunk assisted by LeBron James.

In his All-Star debut, Beal helped lead Team LeBron to a 148-145 victory over Team Stephen as the league utilizied a new format for the annual showcase.

RELATED: BEAL BOUNCED EARLY IN THREE-POINT CONTEST

Beal finished with 14 points and a steal in a productive night. He shot 5-for-10 from the field and an impressive 4-for-8 from long range. 

Beal also tried to get a travelling call from the refs on Karl-Anthony Towns. Yeah, that's not likely to happen in an All-Star Game:

Beal more than held his own and only played 16 minutes, which was good considering he has logged the fifth-most minutes of any player so far this season. A realistic best-case scenario was a strong showing and a short night and that's exactly what he got.

Not only does Beal play a lot of minutes, the Wizards need him now more than ever with John Wall's injury. He needs whatever rest he can get during this All-Star break.

Speaking of Wall, he was in the house despite being in the middle of his rehab from left knee surgery. Per usual, Wall was shining bright:

RELATED: BEST WIZARDS/BULLETS MOMENTS ON ALL-STAR SATURDAY NIGHT

The All-Star Game wasn't all about Beal, of course. Here are some other things that stood out...

*The new format and increased financial incentive were intended to make the game more competitive and that's what happened late in the fourth quarter. Usually, that's how these things go where the players will start trying at the end. But this time it seemed to be up a few levels and it was fun to watch. 

Both teams scored in the 140s, so it wasn't exactly a defensive battle. No matter what the league does, the players will only try so hard for so long. The main goal of everyone's is to not get injured in a game that ultimately doesn't count for anything. Still, this was different and appears to have been a success.

*While everyone was focusing on the reunion of LeBron and Kyrie Irving the best beef was Joel Embiid vs. Russell Westbrook. Those two have traded waves to taunt each other at the end of wins in head-to-head matchups and it was clear on Sunday they still don't like each other. Westbrook tried to dunk all over Embiid in the first half, only to get blocked at the rim.

Westbrook's determination to dunk on Embiid was out of the ordinary for an All-Star Game. It was obvious what was on his mind:

*Irving's handles are simply ridiculous. Check out this fake behind-the-back move he pulled with Giannis Antetkounmpo guarding him. Yes, it didn't fool the defender but it was impressive nonetheless:

*LeBron is 33 years old, yet he was still running up and down the court faster than anyone and leaping above the rim to thrown down alley-oop after alley-oop. It is truly amazing and everyone should enjoy watching him while they can, regardless of whether they like the guy or not.

This was one of his dunks:

LeBron took home MVP with a game-high 29 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists and a steal.

*The pregame show was quite bad. It was anchored by comedians Kevin Hart and Rob Riggle and, though they had some funny jokes, it lasted nearly 30 minutes. The whole thing was pretty much universally panned on social media. Fergie's national anthem was also roasted by the masses.

*The halftime show was much better. It began with N.E.R.D taking it back to their older days with 'Lapdance,' went to Migos performing 'Stir Fry' and swung back to N.E.R.D. who did their latest hit 'Lemon.' 

RELATED: LATEST 2018 NBA MOCK DRAFT

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The NBA All-Star pregame introductions were, uh, something

The NBA All-Star pregame introductions were, uh, something

Whoever put together the NBA All-Star Game player introductions has some 'splainin to do. 

The NBA introduced a kinda-full Staples Center to their 2018 All-Stars about an hour ago, and boy was it weird. There were a lot of dancers in different themed costumes. Kevin Hart was screaming. Rob Riggle was screaming. Ludacris showed up? Hey! Did you know that the Barenaked Ladies are still a band? The NBA would like you to know they're still around.  The whole thing was like when you're at an art museum and you're told that abstract piece in the corner is actually really meaningful but you gotta be honest, you don't get it. 

Anyways, the internet hated it. Here are some highlights from the internet hating it:

The lesson here is that you never need Kevin Hart and Rob Riggle. One will do.